For me, after crafting reading about crafting is the next best thing. I love reading about new techniques, even if I am quite unlikely to actually use them any time soon (if ever). Considering I rarely embroider, for example, I have an awful lot of books about embroidery techniques. Black work, white work, hardander, crewel work, all those amazing traditional techniques that take a lot of time and patience, but look just beautiful, techniques that I just might one day have a go at. Or not, who knows. Meanwhile, I just love browsing them and getting inspiration from them.
For a while now I have been thinking I’d like to learn to make images using a textile technique of some sort. I have a lot of photographs that I’d like to reinterpret in a textile format, perhaps as a tapestry or needlework (so maybe all those embroidery books will come handy one day). As the readers of this blog will now, I have done a lot of dyeing this year, and it would be nice to be able to use all those colours in techniques beyond knitting.
For inspiration, I have been reading Joanne Soroka’s book Tapestry Weaving: Design and Technique. It is a very good book on the topic, I definitely recommend it for anyone interested in textiles. It provides enough guidance on the technique for a complete novice to get started, but it also provides plenty of images of historical and modern tapestries for inspiration. It does not contain instructions for any specific projects, but guides you through the process of designing your own tapestries.
On the practical side, I was particularly happy to see that it is remarkably easy to make a weaving frame if you have a couple of pieces of wood, a hammer and a few nails so you don’t need to buy expensive equipment to get started. You can even use a sturdy picture frame. And the technique itself is pretty simple (at least in theory), so it is entirely feasible to just have a go. So all in all, tapestry weaving is one of those techniques that I can actually see myself trying at some point, perhaps even quite soon.
But there’s another thing I think I will need to do first though. And that’s learn to draw. Like most people, I used to draw as a child and a teenager, but as an adult the skill has got forgotten. Now I am almost scared of even trying. But I found another book that I hope will help me get over this hurdle: Betty Edwards’ Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. It is a real classic on the subject of learning to draw, but just for the benefit of those not familiar with it Betty Edwards argues anyone who is able to hold a pen and write is also able to learn to draw. And not just draw child-like stick people but actually draw realistic images. Drawing as a perfectly teachable and learnable skill is definitely a comforting premise for such a book.
So far I have only read through the introductory chapters, which make a very interesting read on their own right for anyone interested in learning about how the brain functions. The main thing you need to learn is how to switch your brain into a correct mode that allows you to really see your subject in order to draw it. The book then guides you through learning the main component skills of drawing which are all to do with perception: perception of edges, spaces, relationships, lights and shadows and, finally, the perception of the whole.
I might not turn into a Drurer over night, or a master tapestry weaver, it might even take me a little while to get started. Or perhaps something else will capture my enthusiasm before I get round to trying these things. Meanwhile, it has been fun to read, be inspired and dream about what to try next.