Once upon a time there was an online weaving guild and some weavers formed groups to follow along with the guild. There were big groups and small groups, formal guilds, and informal get-togethers. Some groups took on weaving projects or challenges together. Sometimes, they put on shows to share the beautiful things they created.
Ann Belau belonged to two of these groups. One was a small local group in Three Rivers, CA; the other was the venerable, valley-wide guild Handweavers of the Valley. It’s clear Ann was a key member of her weaving groups—a teacher, an organizer, an event planner—and that she was driven by her own innate desire to learn as much as she could of spinning, dyeing, and weaving.
I really connected with Ann and her weaving group when, last October, she designed the foyer for the 39th show and sale of her local guild—displaying her study groups samples of all the episodes of the online guild. It was, by all accounts, a stunning display of colour and weaving. As guests arrived, Ann sat at her loom and gave teaching demonstrations of preparing the loom for weaving. At the time, I was thrilled and inspired and a little awed to think that I had had a part in such a truly remarkable achievement.
Ann has left us now, although she will never truly leave her family, her community, and her weaving friends, by all of whom I know she was deeply loved.
But I am still thinking about Ann, about her weaving group, about the people she connected with, and about the people who connected with those people. I am reflecting on how weavers who belong to an online weaving guild—in the cloud!— still find ways to organize, to connect, and to form community and engage with one another in meaningful ways.
I always get this sense of awe watching people take up the lessons of the guild and run with them. But there was something about Ann and her group that laid it out for me in a new way. Somehow, thanks to Ann and the people connected to Ann and the people connected to the people connected to Ann–I saw something new about the creative spirit and how it tends to organize.
First, we weave and then, we find one another. We self-organize–in guilds, in small weaving groups, at the community centre, in our homes. We are bigger than the organizations we create, but we also sometimes find our home there, as Ann’s daughter says Ann did. We decide to create beauty out of our own spirit; then we find our partners, our sisters, our friends. And then we create astounding things together. We work, we create, we talk, we share, we laugh, we learn—and we produce beauty.
Maybe we are like the bees. Maybe each of us is a single bee. In solitude, we weave our own life and experiences. But then we find one another and come together, and maybe then we are like a hive. And within our hive, we reach out with our sisters for craft, for mastery, and for beauty. And then one day, when we leave the hive, maybe we are like Ann—we launch into the open air with sun on our face, the wind in our hair, the blue sky over our wings—on a mission to find the flowers, and then to dance their location for her sisters, also working and dancing under the sun.
This is what we do. It really is what we do. It is the most beautiful thing imaginable. And I am so, so privileged to be included in that. I have all of you to thank for it, but it took Ann to show it to me.
To see some of Ann’s beautiful work, please read this blog post written by her daughter, who has given us permission to share the link here.