The topic of sketching and planning our pieces comes up on a regular basis as I weave under the watchful eyes of our customers. The philosophy that Jake Trujillo passed on to us regarding this was pretty clear. Design at the loom and make each piece a unique work of art.
So I don’t often sketch things out before I weave. This comes from a long history of not liking pieces that I have thought through too much in advance. I find that basing my work on something I have drawn out on paper as opposed to basing it on what transpires at the loom tends to produce pieces that are awkward and stiff. Perhaps that is just my perception, or maybe it’s that I drew more pieces out when I was a less experienced weaver and not able to execute designs as well. But the philosophy that was passed to my by my husband and his father says that Chimayo designs are done at the loom, that designing is part of the weaving process.
When I am weaving in any of the traditional styles, I have some design decisions already made for me. Tradition will tell me a great deal about design placement and proportions. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have lots and lots of creative design decisions to be made. The question to consider here is when and how I will make those decisions.
I have to have an idea of what the proportions are going to be. This is one thing I often plan out on paper. If I’m weaving a Chimayo, I decide how much background I will start with, how big the stripes will be, what size designs I will be putting in and where they will go. The more I weave, the less I find myself spending time on this step. I can rely on weavings I have done in the past, and, to some degree, I remember the measurements I was happy with. Or I can draw a rough sketch indicating where to begin and end the different elements I will be weaving.
For a Chimayo-style piece I will not draw designs. I will be conscious of what I might want a base to be like before I start the design. I will probably be conscious of what colors will be predominant and what will be secondary or just highlights. I might have an idea of what kind of center design shape will predominate. I might consciously be aware of a new idea or concept I want to explore. But I might have pretty much no preconcieved notion of what a design will end up looking like. Chimayo absolutely has that kind of potential for spontaneity. And one more thing before I start weaving: I have to have an idea of what the proportions are going to be. This is one thing I often plan out on paper. I decide how much background, how big the stripes will be, what size designs I will be putting in and where they will go. The more I weave, the less I find myself spending time on this step.
The one motivation I have for sketching things out is that it might actually help me think about how I will actually weave something. Let’s say I want to have lines that interact in some way, as in, one line passing under another line. It will help me to have that drawn out. I may or may not actually follow the sketch when I get around to weaving it, but it will probably help me to have drawn it out.