What’s Not to Love?

I spent three days with this fabulous group of women over last weekend, weaving this fabulous Tahitian Market Basket out of a beautiful material called Lauhala.  We all came to Shaw Island, and not only did we weave together during the day, we all stayed over at the guest house of one of the women (the only one not in this picture).  So we cooked together, ate together, drank together, worked on the basket well into the night, and got up early to do it all again.

None of us finished the basket completely, so it will be interesting to see how they look once they are embellished with various trims, shells, etc.  But each one already has its own personality, and that will only develop more in the last stages of completing them.  Out teacher, Lei McCornack, is in the middle of the back row.  I have my arm around her in gratitude, love and admiration.  We are a strong and close-knit group of women, and Lei did a wonderful job of jumping in and teaching us this very challenging basket, in her laid back, very Tahitian way.

Challenging?  Make that very challenging.  Many steps along the way.  It’s a double-walled basket which means that you weave an inside and then start all over again to weave the bias-plaited  exterior.  And there is sewing involved.  And trim to be made by hand.  All using this sensual and amazing Lauhala to weave with.  You see it at its thickest on the exterior of the basket, but it can be stripped down to it’s thinnest and will fit through the eye of a needle to sew with.

As the work progressed, we all had our individual moments of challenge.  I hit my own wall at about 3 pm on Friday afternoon while working on the bias-plaiting.  I got incredibly frustrated, and cranky.  I wanted to just rip the basket apart and throw it away.  I wanted to scream.  I hated everybody in the room, and of course, I looked around and saw only perfection in their baskets, while mine was a pice of shit!  I told my dear friend, “Don’t talk to me!”  It was not pretty!  Not pretty at all.  But I went off and sat by myself.  I drank a lot of water, and started to breathe.  I looked at the basket with acceptance, and began to pull and tighten, and pull and tighten again.  Yes, there are some weak areas.  But I began to love the basket in spite of them and maybe even because of them.

And I got to have a quiet little melt down in the midst of one of loveliest, most supportive group of women you’ll ever hope to find.  I got to be real and vulnerable, and that alone was worth it all.  We all got to deepen our friendships with each other, and we all accomplished a Herculean task in making this incredible basket.

Finished!

I was just about to use an unfinished coiled basket for today’s entry when I realized that it would have been the third week in a row that I had used an incomplete piece to express an artistic process or feeling about making art.  It was too weird and too much of a pattern about my life.  In the middle of twelve things, having trouble finishing anything.

Now there can be a beauty and a wonder in the incomplete.  Coincidentally, I was reading an article in Art in America this past week and found an amazing quote from a Chinese Tang dynasty historian named Chang Yen-Yuan.  Here is part of that quote: “From the moment one knows that a thing is complete, what need is there to complete it?  For the incomplete does not necessarily mean the unfulfilled.”

So beautifully inscrutable.  So open to interpretation.  So potentially important to the process of painting (more on this some other time).  But so utterly damaging for completing concrete tasks, and such an easy way out for one who loves to procrastinate, and to procrastinate some more.  Until there are those twelve unfinished projects jamming up my life and my creative process as well.

So I stayed up until 2 am last night and finished this ruffled, peyote stitch, beaded bracelet.  Yeah!  It can be done!