When I first learned to weave I was taught in the Navajo style. I really liked the simplicity of this method, free from the mechanics of traditional floor looms. The vertical frame of the Navajo loom seemed like a big empty canvas and coming from a painting background this approach to weaving felt accessible. I only had to have patience to fill up the warp strings with beautiful yarn.
While I was learning I borrowed many design elements from native textiles, but the patterns and colors were always my own. As I grew more confident with the techniques my weaving changed to reflect what was inside instead of mimicking tapestries I'd seen in books and museums. What hasn't changed is my love of color and narrative, and that's what really drives my work.
When I'm building up a new idea it's often the colors that occur to me first, the right combination will resonate and a story will unfold. Sometimes I already know the narrative so choosing color is how I bring the story to life. In this way I work in layers: there's a surface design visible to everyone made up of shape, pattern and hue, but beyond that there's a narrative that arranges the elements giving them purpose and meaning.
As I work at the loom the color feeds off the story and vice versa, often to a point where they become inseparable in my mind. Even so, I'm never afraid to make changes once I've started weaving a piece. No matter how certain of the design I am when I begin, the weaving develops a voice of it's own as it grows on the loom. I find it's best to listen!
And in a way that's what weaving is for me, it's listening with my eyes and hands. It's listening as the fibers slip between my fingers telling me just where they need to go. Weaving means taking the time to understand whatever I'm working on even if it means letting go of my original idea to follow a new thread. In the end the tapestries I weave are conversations, patiently telling their stories through color and fiber.
All images © Natalie Novak.