Friday, November 12, 2010

The Next Fiber Generation....

Over the past several years a topic that frequently surfaces when weavers, and almost any fiber-crafters other than knitters, assemble is "where will the next generation come from?"  We bemoan the lack of art and manual skills taught in the schools and we note that most of our guilds are populated by those who have left the mainstream working world and have entered retirement.  Guild participation and enrollment is waning.

Both  Sandra Rude and Laura Fry have recently written posts that express concern about how new weavers will find their way.  And in a recent conversation I had with a prominent weaving instructor, Syne Mitchell was pointed to as our best hope for bringing in the next generation.  I love the work that Syne has done.  She has demonstrated phenomenal energy and creativity in getting the word out about weaving through the electronic media.  But....(and I can say this because I am a lot older than Syne..almost old enough to be her mother) Syne recently celebrated her 40th birthday.  There are at least 2 generations of weavers coming up behind Syne.

Three years ago in a workshop with Randall Darwall at Penland we spent one of the discussion sessions talking about where the next generation will come from.  I opined then, and I maintain that opinion, that the next generation of weavers are already there, but they are very different from our generation.  They have to reinvent weaving to make it their own.  In the same way that many of today's mature weavers started out with hemp rope and macrame' frames, the next generation of weavers will discover the magic in the intersection fibers and they will create their own web.

These young people were raised on electronic media.  They have played video games all of their lives.  This is where they learned the tactics and strategies of problem solving.  They do not attack problem solving in the same linear fashion that was drummed into us.  Their approach is not likely to be exactly like our approach.  Yet we leave them a legacy that they will eventually discover.  They will find it in places like: Handweaving.net, with deepest gratitude to the work of Kris Bruland, in places like YouTube (look! no gray hair!), and in places like Syne's Archives.

I am confident that they are there because I am confident of the human need to create.  The need to make things is an essential part of being human.  Not every human has the need to make something out of fiber, or even necessarily something that can be held in the hands.  But I think we can trust that there will always be a segment of society that does need to create a tangible object and a portion of that segment will be inspired by fiber.  These relatively recent developments are what inspire my confidence:





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See, they are there.  They are differently inspired and they organize themselves differently than our generation.  Why would they want to just clone our generation when we who lived through the 1960's didn't want to replicate the generation who went before us?
Especially when a part of the legacy left them has been this:


I think they are going to be just fine.  Let's get behind them, give them support, and encourage them to lead us in new directions.

2 comments:

  1. That is a brilliant young mind at work!

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  2. I agree that the young generation will be creative - it's part of expressing the nature of our Creator.

    The biggest hurdle to hand weaving is the acquisition of a loom. Few young people have the money or space for a floor loom. It will be interesting to see how the knitters' looms play out. I especially wonder if and how the younger generation of weavers will enter complex weaving. I do think that's where we will see the generation gap.

    I'm tickled by the "new age" knitters. They are knitting on lamp posts and happy making crazy dolls, mitts, socks and scarves. Knitting and weaving wasn't always complex.

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