A Reflection on Mindful Weaving Workshops

Mindful Weaving

Mindful Weaving Workshops April 2023

It started with an idea. The original concept was to blend and weave two areas of great interest to me. The creative methodical, time laden technique of hand built weaves within a small group of women within the community of Kinsale, my home town. I wished to trial this method of making, blending creative and wellbeing exercises, to provide an opportunity to those within my community to engage an alternative way to self-care. Perhaps carrying out this trial would enable me to then approach community health and other organisations with a model for staff and client wellbeing support.

As a way of holding the space and opening up the creative process, the addition of meditation and mindful techniques would be scattered throughout the workshop. Originally set to run over 4 weeks, an additional workshop was requested, followed by another request until we eventually ran into the Summer busyness. In the end, over 12 weeks, we came together as a group of women, encouraging and supporting each other in our creative flow, expressing our individual stories and forming deep connections with the material and with each other. The work took on a life of its own, and our job was to show up each week and watch the magic unfold. And so it did.

My own Mindful Weaving

Having been awarded a place on the international Mindfulness Collaboratory for 2023/24, my own weaving and drawing practice had began to take an entirely different shape. My work over recent years, whilst studying for my art qualifications, had focused increasingly on the area of self-care and wellbeing within the creative process. I had explored how creativity could hold so much in terms of inner exploration, through enhancing self awareness and self realisation. I was also curious about how our inner and outer worlds meet. Having followed my own process, through the making of series of hand built weaves, I had noticed how my own work took on a new course. The colours used, the shape and scale of the work all seemed to soften and flow in a new way. You can see example of this in my SHOP.

I began to incorporate a growing contemplative practice, that incorporated simple mindfulness techniques into my making. Before and especially during my creative flow, I would tune into my own senses, my own breath, and the spaces that I found myself in. Rather than pre design my work, or have a definite idea of the outcome, I would flow with movement and colours, stitches and feelings. Pieces would organically emerge. I did a course on circular weaving and enjoyed the continuous flow of weft over warp. An example of this can be seen below.

Mindful Weaving workshop
Mindful Weaving workshop

Yet, through this exploration, that had begun with unraveling how my own quest for self-care and wellness within my own artistic practice, I noticed how this relationship impacted in my interactions with the world around me, through relationships and a deepening connection to nature. How would it be to share this contemplative process with others, in community, with women who were looking for alternative means to tune into and tap into their own creativity, self-care and stories?

Bringing Mindful Weaving into Community

Over the 12 weeks, 10 women would meet for a variety of number of sessions and engage in the practice of mindful weaving. Each workshop had the same framework with a consistency of approach to set up a boundary that was safe and reliable. Each workshop series was started with an acknowledgement of the environment around us, with an alter set up with local twigs and branches, shells, stones and feathers. A candle was lite to separate this space from the usual day to day. After the opening meditation, each participant was offered the opportunity to take an object from the alter to act as a creative guide for the session. Please see below.

Mindful weaving workshops

The meditation at the start of each session prepared us for the workshop ahead and held a theme. We grounded, we came back our breath, we came back to this moment in the space we were in. We would focus on the breath or particular areas of the body: our feet for grounding, the flow of water represented in the movement in our arms, the creative fire in our bellies that fuelled our inspiration. Over the four weeks we went through all of the 4 elements: Earth, Fire, Wind/Air and Water, allowing us to embody these in our senses and connect to the materials we had at hand. Colours were chosen depending on mood. Patterns were followed set by the rhythm of the movement. We then ended each session with a coming together, a re-focusing on breath and an acknowledgement of all that was made.

Once this framework was in place, each session would flow of workshops followed the needs of the women on any given day. Some sessions were laden with techniques and stitches to trial, other sessions were filled with long silences and a deeper presence. My ongoing work was to hold whatever unfolded. I would drop in pieces of meditation and mindful practice where I sensed it was needed. A growing frustration at attempting a new stitch was met by long deep breaths. A cognitive overload of attempting to ‘work things out’ were met by a breathing through our feet and a pushing of our feet gently into the ground, a joy of creation was met by noticing the aliveness in our torso and arms.

Each individual created pieces that were so deeply personal and representative of part of their story. Interwoven with these stories were the land, the location, the place in time. I wondered how much our view, our place towards the end of the harbour of Kinsale impacted on our making. How did the flow of the tides, the sparkle of the waves and the depth of the harbour influence our shapes and patterns? Our view on a sunny day was outstanding.

Mindful Weaving

Over the 12 weeks, each piece was created line by line. Some pieces were purely experimental, a play of colour, line and stitch. Some pieces were considered in more detail, with themes emerging. Almost every week, until the looms were purchased, the weave in process was left with me, for safe keeping. There seemed a growing separation between the day to day life and the making in this special place. Some participants started bringing in their own materials, some purchased especially, others with a history and a meaning. The pieces unfolded.

Mindful Weaves in Process

Mindful weaving
Mindful Weaving
Mindful Weaving

As I sat and watched the group and their pieces emerge, I listened to the interactions, the stories, the experiences. Often there was a lightness in the air as the group encouraged each other more and more, gave suggestions to each other and were inspired by each others approach. The conversations before and after the sessions grew in length, a participants started meeting each other afterwards for walks or coffees.

At other times, no words were needed or necessary. These were times of such profound silence, where it felt that something else, a deep silence, entered the space. I could almost feel this ‘something’ work it’s way through each member of the group, work it’s way through the movement of the wools, traveling as weft over and under the warp in place. There was a solidness to the warp: always in place, always taut, always needing more tension. Interplayed with this was the movement and flow of the weft: always uncertain, fluid and always changing.

With each ending, each piece was removed from the loom, tidied up and considered for presentation or purpose. And then, a starting again. The binding of the warp on the loom as the process started all over again.

Mindful weaving

Mindful Weaving completions:

Mindful Weaving
Mindful Weaving

Eventually we ran into the holiday season as participants began missing sessions. We ended for the Summer and have made plans to come back to the making in September. As I reflect on the unfolding of the past 12 weeks, I am continued to be in awe of the creative process and what happens when it is given the time and space it needs. The feedback from all of the participants was immensely positive as requests came in for a continuation of the workshops. One participant grew in confidence to such an extent that she decided to join the FETAC Art course at the local college. Others very much kept the making to the time we had in a group, a special space that was carved out for them.

Over the 12 weeks I witnessed the growth in creative confidence, a steadying of some of the initial anxiety and connection to material and process. I continued to reflect on my own role as facilitator, meditator and teacher. Often members of the group would call me a teacher or express a desire to learn as much as possible in the time. This often made a little uncomfortable as I had never really seen myself in this role. I saw us all as creative beings, all with potential and imagination and creativity. After one session a participant came up to me and relayed back her experience of engaging with the material and engaging in the creative process. She very much focused on my role, how I held the group as they journeyed through the making, how I contained the array of experiences expressed by the group, how I steadied and encouraged the group’s creative flow. I was quite taken aback my such comments and yet it resonated closely with my intention with the work.

She also described how simple the sessions were, yet how profoundly deep an experience it was working with the material week after week. She very much felt that the material allowed her to express certain parts of her own existence, allowing her to show the world in a non verbal way part of her own story. She felt held and decided to trust me to keep hold of her weaves in between sessions, acknowledging the significance of her piece and it’s meaning. I realised in her feedback that she touched on something so core about my work with weaving and meditation. That the work itself was utterly simple. The binding of thread on a loom, the passing of weft through the warp in the creation of patterns and shapes. Yet, these simple actions, carried out by generations and generations tuned into something old, familiar and knowing.

I would like to continue this work in some way and have received some funding from Create Ireland to carry out a project on weaving and storytelling. I would like to continue to refine and adapt this way of working as I develop my own facilitation skills and my own artistic practice.