Last week I had the pleasure of doing a workshop and lecture on New Age Looping for the North Shore Weavers Guild in Evanston, Illinois. Before I do this lecture, I always spread out the contents of my Looping Trunk Show — a rolling carry-on bag filled with some of the more portable pieces I’ve made over the years. I also put out my bead looping cell phone case, my looped MP3 player pouch, and a few other looped pieces I use daily. Then I fill my travel mug with tea to sip as I speak to the group.
Invariably, after a program I expect to hear two questions: “How long did it take you to make all that?” and “May I look at your mug?” It’s a simple thermal mug I bought because it has a lid I can close completely (I’m a recovering spiller). The freeform looping sheath I made to go around it gives me something textured to hold onto and something pretty to look at.
After the lecture, I drove home sipping tea from that same mug, thinking about the lovely people I had met and replaying snippets of conversations in my mind. One guild member is an archaeologist, and I hope to continue our brief discussion of one of my favorite books, Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years by Elizabeth Wayland Barber.
Somewhere north of Milwaukee, I was struck by an unexpected parallel between Women’s Work and a book I read recently. In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink describes a new age of a different kind – one that prizes aptitudes he calls “high concept” and “high touch.”
“High concept involves the capacity to detect patterns and opportunities, to create artistic and emotional beauty, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into something new. High touch involves the ability to empathize with others, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one’s self and to elicit it in other, and to stretch beyond the quotidian in pursuit of purpose and meaning.”
For 20,000 years, stitchers and weavers have done just that. If you’re going to make something that people will see or touch or use, it might as well be beautiful. As Barber notes, for most of human history time wasn’t perceived as a commodity. Something takes how long it takes.
I’ll drink to that.