This must be the day that all of my dreams come true
So happy just to be alive
Underneath that sky of blue
On this new morning
On this new morning with you
It is that morning, the one that comes in the middle of winter but has the first tiny promise of spring in it. The quality of the light is different, the angle of the sun has changed, and though it's cold and the snowiest months are still ahead, spring will come.
When I began this blog and first introduced the term Slow Cloth, Sharon B asked me if I had a manifesto or definition for Slow Cloth. What follows is my working definition -- a basis for this concept.
You can have a Slow Cloth sensibility as an individual artist or artisan or as a commercial producer; it's about your approach. And it bears repeating that slow is not meant to be literal -- it's not about how long it takes to finish or whether you're stitching by hand or machine. There are companies that I think have a Slow Cloth approach to manufacturing clothing or textiles in commercial quantity, as well as many individuals.
With those caveats, Slow Cloth:
- Has the possibility of joy in the process. I often hear people say that they think they "should" learn to knit or sew, because they think they will save money (right) or that it's somehow virtuous. That's nonsense. Everybody should know how to sew on a button or mend a seam, but when it comes to doing more, if you don't love the process, there isn't much point. In other words, it's the journey, not the destination. If efficiency and sameness are the primary goals, it's not Slow Cloth.
- Offers the possibility of contemplation in the process. Not every moment of making is a serene mystical precious experience. But the totality of your work opens space for you. Like the old saw, you may not be able to define it but you know it when you see it or feel it.
- Involves skill and has the possibility of mastery. Rather than choosing easy or instant-gratification methods, you're aiming for an ever-expanding level of fluency and grace in the techniques you work with.
- Acknowledges the rich diversity and multicultural history of textile art. Textiles are an expression of culture and we live in a fantastically big and small world. Slow Cloth celebrates that diversity rather than eliminating it.
- Honors its teachers and lineage. Most of us began to learn our skills with cloth from an ancestor or friend, and there are many generations before us who used their inventiveness and creativity to expand possibilities in the world of cloth. Thank them, and pay it forward.
- Is thoughtful in its use of materials and respects their source. Take a moment to remember that it takes a lot of people to make your fabric or yarn or dye. I don't think Slow Cloth has to be only natural materials -- some of my favorite artists, like Mary Ruth Smith, work with some synthetics -- but be mindful of your footprint and choose well and appropriately.
- Honors quality. We want to make things that last and are well-made.
- Honors beauty. Beauty is a whole complicated subject all its own. I think that we all have a need for beauty, and that's driven the urge to make and decorate textiles for tens of thousands of years.
- Supports community. A Slow Cloth company respects all of its labor force; individual art and artists acknowledge their relationship to other textile artists. I think part of this is being willing to share knowledge, preserve knowledge about traditional techniques, and teach others.
- Is expressive of individuals or cultures. Remember the old saying in art circles, "Anonymous was a woman"? Well, you could also say anonymous was a quilter or a batik artist in Indonesia. Throughout history, textiles and crafts have been mostly unsigned. Today we can do it differently if we want to; but either way, the human creative force is reflected and evident in the work.
*This post has been edited. I introduced the term Slow Cloth on this blog last year, and this is my original definition of it. This material is copyrighted.