Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Weaving, the Art of Queens
In his book, _Sesame and Lilies_, John Ruskin speaks of weaving as the "art of queens." Addressing well-to-do art lovers, he speaks scathing words because they have not used this skill to adequately clothe the poor.
A quote from the book:
"Six thousand years of weaving, and have we learned to weave? Might not every naked wall have been purple with tapestry, and every feeble breast fenced with sweet colors from the cold?"
He then uses the words of Christ as a reproach:
"I was naked, and ye clothed me not."
All of these lofty ideas were running through my mind as my seven year old daughter, Artiste, tackled her first weaving project this week. All of my girls have been introduced to weaving by making a simple potholder. It is a satisfying project for a young girl, because it can be finished in an hour or two and produces something both lovely and useful. My older girls quickly graduated to using a larger loom and making more substantial items.
Creative pursuits train little hands to be skillful and little eyes to notice details. But there is much more than skill and self satisfaction involved. Domestic arts provide young ladies with a tool by which they may contribute to the welfare of others.
It may seem that giving the gift of a simple potholder would not benefit another person a great deal. But consider the following incident.
A few years ago, a good friend of mine lost her mother. We all grieved for her loss.
This happened at about the same time my oldest daughter, Melody, had been honing her weaving skills. Melody had such compassion for my friend, and immediately asked, "Mom, could I make her some potholders?"
Now most people give flowers as a gift of condolence. But my friend got potholders.
They were woven with love and sympathy, tangible evidence that my daughter cared.
That incident is one that I have treasured in my heart. And I think it epitomizes John Ruskin's ideals. Sometimes we feel so small and insignificant in the midst of worldly sorrow and brokenness. I cannot feed or clothe the multitudes en masse, but I can touch the soul of others, one potholder at a time.
"She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff; she stretcheth out her hand to the poor. She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet." Proverbs 31:19-20
Domestic arts are not frivolous. They serve a meaningful purpose in life and provide the means by which we might serve our fellow man.