When my students at Appalachian State University left for spring break in March 2020, their first major projects were almost finished on the looms. They had just started learning the language of weaving in January, and they were ready to start speaking in visual sentences when their progress was halted. I promised to show them that weaving can happen anywhere and with anything, and so—for the rest of the semester—I wove patterns (both complex and simple) throughout my home, using the obvious choices of fabric and yarn, but also things like tights, playdough, exercise equipment, spaghetti, and toilet paper in temporary installations. More than ever, weaving became process, not product.
After the conclusion of the spring semester, I took a moment to pause, breathe, and reflect, and then agreed to attempt this weaving-without-looms experiment in a more intentional, pre-meditated way, with a 100% online asynchronous summer session. I took a crash course in video-editing and online course development. I traded live demonstrations and direct interactions with students for pre-recorded videos and forum discussions. I gave up the complexity of treadle looms for the simplicity of homemade frames. I worried that the community—so vital and vibrant in the fiber studio typically—would be utterly lost in this format. I worried that the work would be lackluster. I worried that I would never be able to communicate my passion—both for fibers and for teaching—through the coldness of the computer. In the end, none of my fears materialized: the students were supportive and encouraging of each other through online discussions, they made phenomenal work, and many of them are enrolled in additional fibers courses with me in the current semester.
Now, I am teaching in a hybrid format in which I pre-record demonstrations and lectures (my video skills continue to improve!) and students—in half-class cohorts—work on the treadle looms in the studio one day a week while working on frame looms and navigating the online content outside of class time. It is a strange way to teach: keeping my distance and shouting encouragement through my mask while students work quietly, and occasionally seeing their un-masked faces through the magic of Zoom. We are holding our collective breath, awaiting the inevitable announcement that we, too, will fall like so many other universities and be kicked off campus. Until then, we will continue to weave like the wind and hope for the best, while preparing for the worst.
The way in which I teach weaving will never be the same. I am already thinking toward a post-pandemic future, in which I can resurrect the best of the past but infused with the experience of the present. I will continue to pre-record demonstrations. I will continue to move weaving beyond the loom to include elements of installation and performance. I will continue to build robust online content. I will continue to be flexible and understanding, knowing that the collective trauma of 2020—even when it is over—will still haunt us.
Professor Klein presented “Craft + Community: Two Recent Projects,” a Warp Speed Presentation, during session 9D on Saturday, October 17, 2020 during the TSA Virtual Symposium.
Jeana Eve Klein is Professor of Fibers and Assistant Chair for Curriculum in the Art Department at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. Her mixed media quilts, tiny embroideries, and recent text-based pointedly-political projects have been exhibited nationally, including the Museum of Design (Atlanta), PULSE Contemporary Art Fair (Miami Beach), Oz Arts (Nashville), Charleston Heights Arts Center (Las Vegas), and ArtSpace (Raleigh).
Follow Professor Klein on Instagram @jeanaeveklein
Check out more of Professor Klein’s work at her website: http://jeanaeveklein.com/