Warp & Weft
On weaving, music, and the creative tension of the grid
I’m reading a beautiful expanded edition of Anni Albers’ On Weaving. I originally came to her through my research of Black Mountain College and got very inspired by her ideas about materials.
This latest reading has introduced me to another creative tension: the warp and the weft of fabric. As I understand it, the warp is the thread held in tension by the loom, and the weft is the thread that moves over and under the warp. (The weft is also sometimes called “the woof.”)
To get an idea of how complex weaving can be, watch this video, “How To Weave Like Anni Albers”:
Warp and weft has long been a rich metaphor for writers — it’s in some translations in the Bible, and Emerson used it in his essay, “Quotation and Originality.” (Which I somehow did not read before I wrote Steal Like an Artist.)
Our debt to tradition through reading and conversation is so massive, our protest or private addition to tradition so rare and insignificant, — and this commonly on the ground of other reading and hearing, — that, in a large sense, one would say there is no pure originality. All minds quote. Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. There is no thread that is not a twist of these two strands. By necessity, by proclivity and delight, we all quote. We quote not only books and proverbs, but arts, sciences, religions, customs and laws; nay, we quote temples and houses, tables and chairs by imitation... The originals are not original. There is imitation, model and suggestion, to the very archangels, if we knew their history.
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