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Artist-in-Residence (March 2018)

I had been to Terri’s SAORI studio in the woods on three separate occasions before this trip and I thought this would just be a longer version of those experiences. I didn’t realize that this Artist In Residency was going to be different in so many ways. It turned out to be not only the creative experience I was craving, but also an emotional and spiritual experience as well.

Studio in the woods

I promised myself that I would not have any goals or pre-meditated outcomes and that I would just “go with the flow”. I was committed to just living in the moment, and allowing myself to weave what was inspiring me, which ended up being about weaving the landscape of the island.

Artist in Residence, Salt Spring weaving

Terri and I usually met in the studio in the mornings – and I would ask for guidance with different techniques I was interested in learning as well as feeling more comfortable with Kenzo’s table top warping technique.

Judy Sysak, Kenzo's warping method

Terri is so wonderful at just allowing things to bubble to the surface and she was there to help with whatever I asked. I ended up weaving the landscape of the island, working in colours that I generally am not drawn to in shades of the sky/trees/rocky beaches; greens/blues/steel greys and brown hues.

Salt Spring Landscape

I napped and walked in the afternoon, or I went to town and strolled through the shops and art galleries. In the evenings I wove on a loom Terri had put in my room – that had a a white warp with large gaps in the threading. Some evenings, I would pad over to the studio and weave or I would flip through her pattern books until I was ready for bed. I found myself re-reading the Self Innovation Through Free Weaving (The Purple Book) and specifically the parts about Misao Jo’s journey into SAORI weaving and how she intuitively just let her weaving unfold. It reminded me that SAORI is about weaving to find our true selves and we end up with a unique and personal piece of weaving as a bonus at the end. With the passing of Misao Jo in January – these words felt even more poignant and profound.

Like many women I know, I have struggled with perfectionism and the need to be “striving”. If I’m not working towards a goal, then what is the point? These thoughts still end up being front and centre when I am starting my weaving. I think “what is this going to be?”, “will I ever even wear this colour?”, “what if it’s ugly and I’ve wasted all those materials?”. These thoughts can paralyze my creative spirit. This week was all about accepting that I didn’t need to have any answers to those questions – and that I could just let go and weave what I was feeling without worrying about the end product. This proved to be surprisingly uncomfortable at times, but in the end I was able to find a flow and joy in my weaving and I ended up loving, and feeling connected to the finished cloth.

SAORI Weaving

Another gift of the week was Lynn Jones coming to spend the day with us on Monday. She has been SAORI weaving for almost a decade and she loves the process of sewing her woven pieces into clothing, and helping others “see” their cloth in the light of “what does it want to be”? She brought a suitcase stuffed full of her SAORI woven clothing pieces and I excitedly tried on each one, loving each one even more than the one before. It was so inspirational! We spent the afternoon draping samples of woven cloth I had brought with me in ways I had never thought of or envisioned. Terri & Lynn together are a force! All of a sudden, I just wanted to sew, and for anyone who knows me, I never thought I would ever say those words! I made a short top and two vests while I was there and I love them all. I even wore one to a meeting in downtown Calgary last week which was a huge leap for me! I have a new confidence as well as an exciting and fresh perspective regarding my woven cloth.

copper patina

We closed up my week with a SAORI Kai at Poppet Creative, Terri’s satellite studio in Victoria. I was able to meet all the lovely SAORI weavers that make up this community, and it was such a treat to not only share my work, but to see what other people have been weaving and making with their cloth as well. I loved being a part of such a welcoming group, even if it was just for the day.

clothing design at Poppet Creative, Victoria

In closing, the Artist in Residence experience was about a lot of things. It was about embracing alone time, sipping almond milk chai lattes on the beach,

Fernwood Dock, Salt Spring Island

discovering coconut milk yogurt (so yummy!) and having long uninterrupted naps without laundry, grocery lists or voicemails that needed to be returned. But it also opened up my creative spirit to the question “what if”?. What if I added locks? What if I left a big space on this row? What if I added a completely different colour than I’m currently using? What if I let the edges go loose and create loops?

Lorries Locks

Going into the AIR, I still had so much fear of making a mistake. Then something shifted and I came away with the realization that so many possibilities open up when I just allow myself to ask “what if”? And not just in weaving!

A sincere thank you to Terri, who opens up her studio and her heart to make these retreats possible. I feel so grateful that she and her SAORI teachings have made their way into my life and my heart.

Judy Sysak
Artist in Residence, SAORI Salt Spring
March 3-11, 2018

Fulford Harbour

1 reply
  1. Lynn
    Lynn says:

    Judy, you have described such an amazing experience so very well! I felt the same release when I was there. No other responsibilities. Waking at 5am and weaving or sewing or draping my cloth. Listening to it. I am so looking forward to spending more time with you, either here or at Tin Roof. Happy to have a new Saori sister!

    Reply

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