I was reading Claire Shaeffer’s book on couture sewing this morning and thinking how closely couture sewing fits in with the Slow Living movement (and Slow Eating) movements. They are both about making room for, and appreciating, fewer experiences but much higher-quality ones. The Slow Eating movement is not just about taking time to savor your food, but also taking the time to understand where and how your food is coming from, develop relationships with your suppliers, so that your eating is not just feeding, but part of a network of relationships that runs from the land where the food is grown through the farmer though the food vendor to the person who prepared your food. In this way we develop a sustainable, humane, connected way of living, rather than an anonymous, fast-moving chain predicated mostly on money.
Couture, of course, runs on vast sums of money but money is not what couture is about. instead, it’s about taking the time to develop a relationship with a client, understand not only fitting but personal style, and then develop the resulting piece by hand, through painstaking labor and skill, to produce a piece that will not only look good, but which can take pride in itself – which will last through the ages (even if it is only worn once) and need make no apologies for itself. It is perfection, and appreciation, and relationship – all things that come out of Slow Living, and Slow Food.
And I feel that weaving is, in itself, another connection to Slow Living. I did not fully appreciate fabric until I learned to weave. It was something anonymous, cut from bolts in the fabric shop, raw material like rocks and dirt. I took them and transformed them into beautiful things, but fabric was not a precious, living thing.
Commercial fabric still isn’t, at least to me. I’ve seen it being made, on tremendous jacquard looms rattling away in corrugated tin shacks in Vietnam. But the fact that it’s made by machine and churned out in enormous quantities makes it a little bit soulless, perfect perhaps, but not “alive”. There is no connection, no relationship in it.
But when I sit down and weave, or create anything for that matter, I make a connection. It is a dialogue between me and the medium and the materials, a give and take. The resulting finished piece is “alive”, in the sense that the dialogue can be read and remembered in each fold of the cloth, each design decision. Creating is something that builds a bridge between me and the world around me, transforming the world from a collection of things to an ongoing relationship, one of frequent joy and occasional frustration, with me and the world.
This is why I make time for creation, no matter what else is going on in my life. Even this week, when I have been working 16 and 18 hour days, I have always made space for at least a little creative time – even if it’s only fifteen minutes at a time. This is my time to connect to the universe, not a meditation but an active reaching-out, reminding me that I’m alive.