Welcome to Life Well Lived: an ongoing conversation around how we can use technology to improve our lives. In this final installment of our series, we spoke with Maryanne Moodie, Instagram's and the design world's favorite modern loomer on the link between coding and weaving and how technology informs her creative practice.
If you've recently been finding yourself with an urge to splurge on a fluffy, wooly, large-scale wall-hanging, or had sudden pangs to take up craft as a new hobby, chances are Maryanne Moodie is to blame. Since leaving Melbourne for Brooklyn, the art teacher turned reigning doyen of tapestry has taken the world by storm, inspired budding weavers around the world to dive into fiber through her online tutorials, in-person workshops and newly minted book, On the Loom: A Modern Weaver's Guide.
Foursquare's Swarm is an app all about getting “life well lived" through life logging: the process of tracking your daily activities to gain insight in your habits, as well as collecting your best memories. Given weaving's interesting history with technology (it was the Jacquard loom's punch cards, in fact, that gave way to modern computer programming) and the art form's slower pace, we sat down with Maryanne to find out about her relationship to technology and the haptic — and to find out how she balances the immediacy of digital with the slowness and mindfulness of her practice.
How did you get started weaving? What attracted you to weaving?
A number of factors came into play around the same time. I wanted to stop buying gifts for family and friends and make meaningful gifts as an act of rebellion against fast consumerism. I wanted to learn a new skill with my hands that would take me away from screens. I got pregnant and wanted something to do on maternity leave. When I was cleaning out the art storeroom for the new teacher, we stumbled across an old rigid heddle loom and decided it was a sign! I started weaving immediately with whatever fibers I had in my home (ribbons, baker's twine, etc.) and it was like someone switched a light on in my life — I hadn't realized I was sitting in the dark!
The tactility of weaving could very much be seen as an antidote to technology. What role does technology have in your life? How do you relate to the haptic and the digital?
Exactly, you can't check your phone whilst weaving. You cant even watch TV! You can listen to music, podcasts or just melt away in a train of thought. I check my phone in the morning before heading to the studio and then again at lunchtime. I try to also have a bit of a third eye and to notice in my own work when someone might like a little peek at what I am doing and make a little video or photo to connect to my community.
Despite being rooted in such a craft-based, haptic process, you have a massive presence on social media. What has the role of social media been on your practice?
I love connecting with my community. It was much easier when it was a small close-knit community to reply to every comment, but you can't spend all day on your phone. Now I try to keep the scrolling to a minimum and be more conscious and impactful in my social media use.
Technology is usually associated with speed. Do you think it is possible for technology to aide in a more attentive or slow life?
I only really do emails on Monday and Wednesday. I have two little boys and so I really try to keep days with them work-free if possible. My job is not the kind that someone will be in grave danger if I take a few days to reply and so I feel more in control. I can take my time.
Weaving of course has a long legacy with the birth of origin of coding. Can you speak to the history of weaving as it relates to technological innovation?
Its funny, my husband is a graphic designer and UX designer who also is a programmer. We are sort of doing the same job really. Weaving is a way of bringing together the wisps of what would otherwise be a single strand. By pulling them together, we create strength, unity, balance and harmony. In my view, this idea speaks to a utopian life and society.
Do you have any rituals you use in your practice or process?
I like to do a 5-minute exercise (almost like a guided meditation) where I draw simple shapes whilst opening up and allowing myself to feel strong emotions that I don't otherwise allow myself the time and energy to feel. Then I use these shapes to design a weave. Sometimes it might be an angry weave or a jealous weave or a confused weave. It is like art therapy.
What advice do you have for those looking to get into weaving?
Make your self a cardboard loom and rip up some old clothes or sheets and have a go. The book I wrote, On the Loom: A Modern Weaver's Guide, was all about how to get into weaving sustainably by using what you already have around the house. Alternatively if you are time poor, there are many places to can begin, (including my Etsy shop ;) where you can buy the loom, materials and book. I also have two online courses so that you can learn from anywhere in the world in your own time.
The is part four of a four part series where Foursquare explores how technology shapes and changes how we live our lives. For the other installments see here: part one, part two, and part four. Or, follow us and never miss a beat!