weaving an enhanced sense of self and a collective sense of self through creative textile‐making

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Tufts University]On: 04 November 2014, At: 08:00Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: MortimerHouse, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Journal of Occupational SciencePublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rocc20

    Weaving an enhanced sense of self and a collectivesense of self through creative textilemakingJill Riley aa Doctoral student & lecturer, Department of Occupational Therapy , Cardiff University ,Wales E-mail:Published online: 26 Sep 2011.

    To cite this article: Jill Riley (2008) Weaving an enhanced sense of self and a collective sense of self through creativetextilemaking, Journal of Occupational Science, 15:2, 63-73, DOI: 10.1080/14427591.2008.9686611

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2008.9686611


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    Weaving an Enhanced Sense of Self and a CollectiveSense of Self through Creative Textile-Making

    Historically, the occupation of textile-making has fulfilled basic human needs. It also offers a means ofexpressing cultural and personal identity and developing self-awareness. Drawing on an ethnographyof a British guild of weavers, spinners and dyers, this paper explores how a sense of self is enhancedby becoming and being a textile-maker through creative doing, and a collective sense of self developsfrom belonging to a guild. The findings indicate that a sense of self comes from an intrinsic need tomake textiles that is closely connected to ones personal background, affinity for materials, skillmastery, passion for rhythm and process, spiritual commitment and continuity with the past. Acollective sense of self is related to sharing occupation and working together as a part of a group. Thisbrings about a sense of belonging, which in turn enhances quality of life and perceptions of well-being.

    Key Words: Becoming, Identity, Collective sense of self, Textiles, Weaving

    Jill Riley

    As a craft discipline, textile-making can beperceived as multi-media and amongst the mosthybrid of contemporary crafts, incorporatingtechniques such as embroidery, knitting,weaving, spinning, felting, dyeing and basketry(Colchester, 1991; Gale & Kaur, 2002). Inwestern cultures, individuals who engage insuch crafts have consciously chosen to expressthemselves through a set of establishedpractices and traditional principles, which arehistorically constructed (Greenhalgh, 2002).The ability to choose and to selectively engagein particular occupations in this way, definesindividuals as having a sense of self(Christiansen & Townsend, 2004; Harvey &Pentland, 2004).

    In occupational science, creative self-expression through textile-making has beenaddressed by Reynolds (1997, 2004) andReynolds and Prior (2003) in theirphenomenological studies of women withchronic illnesses. Dickie (2003b), in anethnography of American quilting guilds,focused on the centrality of learning aspects ofthe craft, and in a later paper, the importance ofcreativity as a part of the process of making(Dickie, 2004). Together with Howell andPierce (2000), who explored the restorativevalue of quilting, these authors offerconsiderable insight into the dimensions oftextile-making as meaningful occupation.

    This article aims to add further insight into thedimensions of textile-making as creativeoccupation. It draws on the findings from anethnographic study of a guild of weavers,spinners and dyers, where I, as the researcher,am also a member. The wider study explored

    occupational engagement in textile-making andits influence on health and well-being, in thecontext of contemporary British culture. Here, Iinitially explore the nature of textile-making associo-culturally situated, skilled andmeaningful occupation, and its historicalrelationship with health and well-being. I thengo on to outline the methods and my role as aninsider researcher. Finally, themes relating tohow textile-making can enhance an individualssense of self and how belonging to a guilddevelops a collective sense of self are presented.

    The Nature of Textile Crafts as Occupation

    In its broadest sense, the term occupation refersto all purposeful activity in which humansengage in the context of community, society,culture and time (Wilcock, 1998; Yerxa, 1993).The textile crafts can be traced back to thebeginning of civilisation and throughouthistory textile products have catered to thehuman need for protection, clothing anddecoration (Colchester, 1991; Geijer, 1979).Consequently, as a form of occupation, textile-making offers a good example of how peoplehave fulfilled basic human needs and adaptedto environmental change. In the 21st Century,and particularly in western societies, textilesalso have a central place in fulfillingpsychological and spiritual needs throughdifferentiating and personalising space (Graves,2002).

    Textile craftsmen have had a place in everysociety and their skills have been widely sharedand communicated. Textiles continue toprovide a perfect vehicle for establishing,

    Jill Riley, MSc, PG Dip, DipCOT,Doctoral student & lecturer,Department of OccupationalTherapy, Cardiff University, Wales

    Correspondence to:rileyjm@Cardiff.ac.uk

    2008 Association for theJournal of Occupational Science

    Journal of Occupational Science2008, 15(2), pp 63-73

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  • expressing and maintaining cultural identity (Gale & Kaur,2002, p. 91). They are also a part of our personal identity,signifying social status and role (Gale & Kaur). For instance,the textile fabrics we wear whether by choice or sometimesout of necessity, make a statement about ourselves. Textiles area fundamental part of everyday dress and individuals utilisedress to create expressions of who they are in relation toothers (Goodman, Knotts & Jackson, 2007, p. 102). Textilesthen, have almost limitless potential for communicationexpressing issues such as poverty, opulence and sexuality(Schnieder & Weiner, 1989, p. 1). As such, textiles andtextile-making can be a strong enabler for knowing oneselfand knowing ones being (Hasselkus, 2002, p. 17). Thiscomes about through actively engaging in occupation, inother words through doing (Wilcock, 2006).

    Textile-Making as Purposeful and Creative Doing

    Textile craft is intimately bound up with making, which is anaspect of doing. For Fidler and Fidler (1978), doing conveyeda sense of performing, producing or causing (p. 305).Collingwood (1938) described a craft as being exercised uponsomething, a raw material for instance, with the aim oftransforming it into something different; weaving cloth fromyarns or spinning a thread from raw fibre. As such, it is bothpurposeful and goal directed, leading to an end product in theform of a crafted object.

    Textile-making is complex, creative and revealing of humaningenuity (Schoeser, 2003, p. 7). It can involve the creationof the ingredients, such as yarn from fleece or natural dyefrom plants as well as utilising natural materials such aswillow for basket making and wool for felting. In this way, itcan be considered as the mastery of material (Constantine &Larson, 1985, p. 8). Like other crafts, such as ceramics, wood-turning or glass-blowing, it requires a high degree of controland development of skills and knowledge that take time toacquire (Metcalf, 1997; Sutton, 1982). This is particularly thecase for spinning and weaving where, from my personalexperience of learning these crafts and becoming a textile-maker, I am aware that the process must be understood andrules assimilated through practice before one can beinnovative and creative. Dormer (1994) referred to this formof practical or tacit knowledge as craft knowledge (p. 11),something which is acquired through doing. For example, it ispossible to combine natural and synthetic fibres whenweaving in ways that can lead to new textural and visualeffects in the finished cloth, but this can only b


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