Sunday, August 23, 2015

Holes: Rabbit and Pot

   As I still can't weave (Thursday morning can't get here fast enough), I've started working on the research and writing requirements for Level 1. It seems that all those years I spent in academia are paying off again: as a academician, I don't read words in directions the way many lay people read them. A great example: the very first task is to "define briefly in sentence for each of the following design terms," followed by a list of seven terms familiar to most art students (shape, form, balance, rhythm, etc.). Most "normal" people would read "define briefly" as "a sentence or two," but not me--if you're lucky, you might get something as short as seven double-spaced pages, defining each term, how that principle of design came into usage, and how it pertains to design in general and the fiber arts in particular. Some people might consider all this writing as pedantic overkill, but I see my job as making it so interesting that the reader doesn't even realize that it's seven double-spaced pages.
   A recent email exchange with the HGA bears this out. While no one is ever unkind enough to say, "this is university-level work, so pull your socks up and get to work," that's exactly what it is. Fortunately, I've spent enough time in university classrooms to not be frightened: instead, I relish the opportunity to sink my teeth (metaphorically speaking) into a big bunch of research, and to craft beautiful sentences that demonstrate that I really know this stuff.
   While how to do the research is a pothole I can avoid, my biggest problem is avoiding the rabbit holes: topics that pull me away from my current task. As part of my research, I've been delving into back issues of the major weaving magazines. This isn't difficult, as I have a lot of magazines and journals: a complete set of Handwoven; a complete set of Jean Scorgie's journal, The Weaver's Craft; about a dozen issues of Madelyn van der Hoogt's magazine, Weaver's; and a good many Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot from the Handweaver's Guild of America. Some of my back issues are now electronic, but a surprising number are original, printed paper copies. I like having the "dead tree" version of weaving magazines. They're like cookbooks--I find it easier to turn pages and look through the physical copy than to scan it on a computer screen.
   Unfortunately, digging through the issues, looking for articles on color theory and how stripes are used as a modular unit, leaves me open to all those articles that have nothing to do with what I'm researching. At first, it seems innocuous: an article on how Ada K. Dietz used algebraic expressions in creating weaving drafts seems to "sorta" go with all the other reading I've done on the mathematics of proportion, the Fibonacci series, and the Golden Ratio. However, before I know it, I'm busy searching online for a copy of the monograph Ms. Dietz published in 1949, and wondering how I can incorporate some of her principles into the next warp I put on the loom. I've fallen down another rabbit hole, and my research lies abandoned until I come to my senses and get back to work.
   I used to rely on the threat of a class deadline to get a piece of research or writing finished--I wrote my senior thesis in the 48 hours before it was due in my professor's office, and got an "A"--but this is not a good way to work, especially on something that doesn't have any real deadlines. Instead, I have to set my own deadlines, then try to meet them. Organizing the requirements into an outline has helped, as I can focus on one part and work just on that until I feel I have enough information, or enough to say, on that part. Once that is done, I can move on to the next part. My only real, external deadline is January 2018, when I submit my formal registration for the COE-W examination. Until then, they are "internal," but no less real deadlines.