Explore Fiber is a collaborative website showcasing and exploring fiber as a fine art material.
Fourteen years ago, I arrived at Harry C. Withers Elementary as the new K-6 art teacher. As I explored my new instructional studio, I opened a cabinet door to discover it contained a class set of wooden looms. I cringed and found myself remembering my “Nightmare at the Loom”.
While in college majoring in Art Education, I was required to take a weaving course. I was working, commuting, and taking 22 hours a semester. I had no time to breathe but was in awe as I walked into a studio filled with huge floor looms. I had never done any weaving previously. So, as an artist I was excited about this journey I would be taking into a new form of creation. We were instructed as to how to thread the loom by our very straight laced female professor. I began and after three hours finished the task and ran out the door to try to get to work in traffic 35 miles away. I kept imagining how much fun it was going to be to weave and what I would be able to create.
As I sat down at my loom during the next class, the professor walked in carrying these huge scissors that looked like hedge trimmers. I had never seen anything like that and wondered what she was going to do with them. She walked right over to my floor loom in a room with probably thirty looms in it. She then proceded to cut every single piece of warp I had so carefully threaded. I watched in terror as each piece fell in slow motion to the floor. The teacher then said after all the damage was complete, “You did not thread the loom correctly!” I asked, “How many mistakes did I make?” She replied, “One.”
I thought that it would have taken one minute to fix it as I looked around to see all the other students checking and fixing their mistakes in a frenzied state. I started re-threading and thought as a future art teacher, never would I use a student as an example to make a point that would cause embarrassment or shame like she had. We were given six projects to complete which sounded like none of them had any room for personal choice or creativity. However, she shared that one of them would be a free choice. I got a shot of enthusiasm that propelled me through the other assignments that had to all be “cookie cutter creations”. When I started my “free choice”, the professor would walk by often and say, “I hate it!” I would reply, “I am sorry, but you said it was free choice”. I changed nothing and turned it in with the other five piece that I had created. She said as I handed all of them to her, “I told you I hated this one”, and I said, “You said it was free choice and I love it”. She gave me a failing grade for my “free choice” piece and I received a lower grade than all of my peers who all knew she had targeted me for whatever reason. I told myself I would never touch a loom again…
Forty five years later, after teaching weaving for fourteen years to my K-5 (now) weavers, I still am not a weaver but I teach all of them to appreciate the art of weaving.
In retrospect as I prepare to retire this year, I posted a yarn ball that was coming apart on Facebook saying this was my last season of teaching weaving. Yes, I can say that choosing to teach weaving has never been something I regretted. I choose to have them weave, even though the curriculum has no place for such a time intensive unit of joyous creation due to the testing that seems to regiment our hallowed walls of learning. Giving semester exams in elementary art is a nightmare I would never have imagined, but it has happened. During the months of April and May, my traumatized test takers are all weaving to provide them with a calm and creative respite from all the stress they are experiencing. I drink in and treasure when each weaver gets it and loudly expresses, “I love weaving!”
Fifth grade boy showing his “Happy Weaving Hands”
I am still not a weaver, but I am a weaving instructor who is going to miss seeing the benefits of sending an experienced band of weavers joyously out into the world.