Hello! My name is Michael Christie and I am The Ruggist.
Welcome to Monologue. Short, concise, micro-pod-casts in which I share my opinions and thoughts about myriad topics as they relate to and intersect with the trade of handknotted and handmade rugs and carpets.
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Monologue – Episode 6 – The Nature of Weaving
For those who regularly follow along with The Ruggist you already know I have in the past few years taught myself how to weave using a proper crossed-woven Tibetan running-knot senneh structure. Well maybe you didn’t know the technical details, but you know of my newfound skills. Perhaps you’ve seen me demonstrate weaving either via Instagram or in person at various showrooms events. You may have even read or heard me say that I have wanted to learn to weave for a long time – vaguely defined as that may be. I know that in 2016 when I first traveled to Nepal I had the urge to learn, but my efforts at the time were met with disbelief that someone of my stature – whatever that means – would wish to commit the time to learning such a laborious task many might consider beneath me – especially those who concern themselves with caste hierarchy, social conventions, and the trade of carpets. But I did have such a desire and I did learn and continue to learn. Only recently however did I recall the moment when the idea of learning to weave first took hold.
There is a quote from Carl Sagan which I love. It sums up our search for knowledge, emphasizing no matter our learned stature, no matter how many times others have called us an expert, no matter ones potential erudite status, there remains an infinite amount we do not know and – likely – can never know.
In order to make an apple pie from scratch one must first create the universe.Carl Sagan
Each time I learn something new at the loom, or read some grandiose, bumptious, inflated marketing copy about the next new rug that is as essential as oxygen, I think to myself: ‘We all stand on the shoulders of giants.’ But despite our egos, it is not up to this era to define our giants; that is for history to decide. And history has decided weaving, in all its manifold forms, looms large, occupying a gigantic place in human history; As a fundamental technology of human civilization without the mastery of which there would be none of this – I say while gesturing to the world we have built – weaving as a skill, as a technology is – without overselling it in any way – critical to our existence.
This is the nature of weaving.
But handweaving, including the handknotting of rugs and carpets is not the predominant means civilization employs weaving to the benefit of humanity; handwërk such as this has, since – at least since – the first industrial revolution, been largely supplanted by mechanized and automated means of weaving. The transmogrification by hand of raw material into utilitarian, if not also decorative, cloth and carpet now largely esoteric, increasingly rare, and all but forgotten by those of us who now live in so-called ‘service economies.’ Simply put, we don’t know how to make things and thus don’t understand or value the creation of those things which require time, effort, and more than just clicking an imagined button on our phone. Hell, some of us don’t even shop for our own groceries anymore, let alone actually conjure with our own hands something magnificent from chaos.
This is what first inspired me to learn to weave. It was the mid-late nineteen nineties, the fin du vingtième siècle and there was an article in either Rug Insider Magazine or the now defunct Rug News Magazine which told of a retired gentleman in Florida who built his own loom and wove a carpet. He quite honestly described his skills as rudimentary, but noted that he embarked on the learning adventure out of curiously, not out of delusions of mastery; I was enthralled.
Since dirt was new, itinerate as well as localized rug traders have spoken romantically of weavers as though those who weave are a homogenous ethnic group possessing esoteric knowledge of a craft all but lost to time. Those who weave are treated as people who must be preserved, held in the stasis of a so-called traditional era, so that those who enjoy the modern world can marvel nostalgically, while both lamenting the loss of these skills and doing nothing themselves to obtain said knowledge; nostalgia, after all, is a tint of rose which filters our world. But enough talk, more doing.
And so I learnt to weave because, to be blunt, if some guy in Florida could do it then, I could – with far more access to information than he ever had – do it now. Me. A tall white man of privilege from the American mid-west with no ancestral connection to weaving.
How foolish it seems to me now that we treat – by attitude, by exploitation, by compensation or lack thereof, those who weave as somehow inferior. In the commercialized modern world, those who weave do so [things, SIC] out of simple economic necessity, not some romanticized, revisionist, colonial mindset in which their labour skills are preserved for the benefit and voyeuristic enjoyment of certain segments of mankind. I ask rhetorically, when was the last time anyone seriously considered reviving at commercial scale, handwërk of the calibre and finesse required of handknotted rug and carpet making? We must reälign our mindsets and our ways if we are to value and respect our fellow humans.
This is the true nature of weaving…
…and this has been Monologue Monday.