Life and Loom adopts a unique approach, which reflects the insights of John Ruskin and William Morris. We work with hand, head, heart and place to provide people with the tools required to transform material and in doing so transform themselves. In this way, people can come to recognise themselves and others; they develop self- and social awareness and are empowered to achieve and make positive contributions to society.
Weaving is a method of textile production in which two sets of yarns are interlaced to form a fabric. The longitudinal threads are called the warp and the lateral threads are called the weft. The methods in which these threads are inter-woven affect the characteristics of the fabric. Fabric is usually woven on a loom.
Weaving has a long history and there are some indications that it was already known in Palaeolithic era, as early as 27,000 years ago. Weaving has played an important part in the civilisation of the human being and the origin and function of weaving was, no doubt, not purely utilitarian. Hand craft initially belonged to the realm of spiritual life and only gradually did the utilitarian mind evolve hand craft to meet utilitarian needs.
Between 1860 and 1910, a social movement known as the "Arts and Craft Movement" originated in England. Instigated by the artist and writer William Morris (1834-1896) and inspired by the writings of John Ruskin (1819-1900), the philosophy of this movement was largely a reaction against mechanisation, and advocated instead for traditional craftsmanship. In keeping with the ethos of the Arts and Crafts Movement, at Life and Loom we are primarily interested in the manual craft of weaving as opposed to the mechanised form of weaving which began in the industrial revolution.
Life and Loom is much more than a textile studio. It is a place where all people are valued as artists. It is a place where all people can enjoy their own creative nature, regardless of previous experience or perceived artistic ability. People can sit at the loom and weave quite freely, enjoying each moment as it comes. Each person can bring their own ideas, personality, hopes, choices, rhythm and preferences to the weaving process so that every fabric produced is completely unique. The textile in turn reflects the experience and state of mind of the individual, just as they are in that moment. Each fabric produced beholds an individual dignity which reflects that of the individual.
At Life and Loom we don’t use machines which produce uniform patterns and straight edges; we use human hands and hearts which reveal themselves in the variations, the unevenness, and the flaws of the woven fabric. We encourage people to be free to explore different textures, colours, patterns and ideas without a fear of doing something the wrong way. We try to be open and enthusiastic in each moment and we try to be kind to ourselves whilst weaving. We notice the beauty around us and we are alert to our own thoughts and emotions. At Life and Loom we allow our weaving to become an expression of who we are, right here and now in the present moment.
Life and Loom is a craft-based studio, so it follows that central to our mission is helping to train people to become skilled in weaving and the associated processes. However, what we offer is not entirely vocational and we do not put expectations on people to be employed in textiles once they decide to leave us. The time when traditional hand crafts were practised to serve our everyday needs has now passed in most parts of the world. Nevertheless, we believe that hand craft can continue to serve a relevant need for the human being today.
Life and Loom is a place where hand craft can be used to create a practical path of meditation, therapy, rehabilitation, trauma recovery, stress reduction, identity-building, community-building, economic self-reliance, and holistic human development. Hand craft gives the person the possibility to find their ‘self’. Hand craft opens up the opportunity to enter into a relationship with the universe, the earth and its people. Through hand craft, the person is able to take hold of the world and its physical substance. By doing this the crafts person is not only transforming matter into useful objects, but is in turn transformed by the different elements and processes involved in producing the fabric.
At Life and Loom we talk a lot about weaving, but we are in fact referring to the holistic process which we call ‘farm to fabric’. We strive to convey the inherent nature and process involved in taking the fleece from the animal kingdom and transforming it into a fabric which can be used for practical means. People will work with a variety of materials, skills, tools and equipment. The 'farm to fabric' process can involve shepherding, shearing, carding, spinning, dying, knitting, felting and weaving. We endeavour to involve people in all parts of this process.
Each person’s ideas, experiences and contribution are equally valuable and there are no levels such as beginner, advanced or master. Differences in status, age, physical or learning abilities are unimportant. We believe that through embracing the true process of hand craft, individuals may only contribute to one – or many - parts of this process and in turn be a co-creator of the finished fabric.
The weaving process engages the person in a fourfold manner from conceptualisation to a realised product. The first stage of preparation is in our head. This thinking activity conceptualises, ideals, designs, and plans ahead. The second stage of action engages our hands. This is where the craft person brings their hands to bear upon the material. The third stage of judgement engages the heart. This is where the individual exercise judgement as to the shape and form as they proceed. The fourth stage of conclusion engages the head, heart and hands as the individual steps back and looks at what they have co-created.
It is the nature with anything that is created that it will always fall short of the person’s ideals. In turn, this gives rise to the positive seed of motivation. This energy to try again and do better is where morality can manifest and express itself.
Through our experience we have found that the majority of adults with additional needs – such as adults with a learning disability or mental health condition – want to work, but only a small proportion are in employment.
Negative attitudes towards these people and low expectations of their ability are prevalent amongst employers. People from these groups who are looking for employment require flexible or personalised work programmes, which cannot always be supported. They may face unfair treatment, discrimination, bullying or harassment in the workplace, and lack adequate skills.
In addition to providing a safe place for people to learn transferable work and life skills, we support people to develop a social identity that is related to what they can do, not what they cannot. We believe that learning a trade or vocation takes dedication and focus. We want to provide an opportunity for people to engage in meaningful work; we want people to be able to say for example, ‘I’m a weaver’, ‘I’m a maker’, 'I'm an artist'.