Motivation to a Higher Quality

Now where, as in most cases, the spinning
motivation is the spinner’s enjoyment, not the yarn, and
where, for reasons of psychic economy, that enjoyment
need is frequently satisfied at a low level of achievement,
there is consequently little drive on the part of the spinner
to spin better. We cannot argue that there should be this
drive, for as long as enjoyment rather than yarn is the
goal, the positive feeling one gets is irrespective of the
product. However, when such a picture is as pervasive as it
is, handspinning craft skill becomes publicly defined by a
very low denominator. Eventually, as we believe has
already happened, new entrants into the field never are
placed in a position where they could even suspect that a
higher level exists.

Allen Fannin, “Looming Thoughts” Spin Off 1977, p12

I have begun to read all of the back issues of Spin Off Magazine. My goal is to become better acquainted with the recent history of spinning by immersing myself with a critical eye in a variety of texts dating back to the 1970s.

Allen Fannin was at the forefront of spinning in the 70s and 80s.  While this particular article by Fannin struck me as outdated and sexist, some of what Fannin says speaks to an interesting point that I’ve personally considered time and time again.  I ask myself, why do I spin?  It always comes down to joy.  I don’t spin because I need to produce textiles.  I do not live in a culture where textile production is valued.  In fact, most cottage industry isn’t valued in my culture.

However, I disagree with Fannin’s main point in this article, “And so, here we sit, in 1977, having gone embarassingly downhill from the handspinning skill that was evidently in the world a long time ago. We appear to have lost, or ignored, our ability to distinguish those with the aptitude for highly skilled craftsmanship and quite possibly we now even fail to recognize aptitude as essential at all”

I’m not sure how true this was in 1977, but today, I see a very different story.  Last week, I spent a week at Ply Away, the third year for this particular conference.  While I met people at every level of skill, from beginners to masters, and they all had one thing in common.  They came together as a community to improve their skills.  I see this scenario repeated over and over, at in-person events and in online communities.

Sometimes access to information can be a huge determining factor on personal growth.  With the advent of social  technology, the ability to share information quickly and effectively, we’ve got experts at our fingertips.  Online communities make it easier to parse out the vast deluge of information.  The small pockets of individual spinners are finding new ways to connect and spinning to a higher standard as a result.

While I don’t relish the thought of losing our most knowledgeable members as a generation ages out, we are moving toward a more connected community of fiber artists and connection means accountability.

Yes, there will always be individuals in this type of community who don’t aspire to the pinnacle of craftsmanship.  And unless the apocalypse is upon us next Tuesday, that’s okay.  Again, though, connection equals accountability, and there will be those in the community who do continue to develop and strive for the pinnacle.  We drive each other forward.  Those who hold the title “Master Spinner” or “Master Weaver” are celebrated!

Fannin finished with, “From its present position, handspinning has nowhere to go but up, and up is optimistic.”  If 1977 was a drought, today we are living in a spinning renaissance.


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