There is a long tradition of weaving as therapy. (Our upcoming November/December issue of Handwoven has the story of Fran Curran and the infinity scarves woven by low-vision and senior weavers at the Hartford Artisans Weaving Center in Rhode Island.) Deb Brandon is also a weaver, a teacher, and a survivor. In person, her humor and grace are infectious. Here is her story of triumph and of the healing power of weaving. ––Anita
|Deb's dream fabric off the loom.|
I am a weaver, but could not weave. Instead, I dreamt.
I dreamt of silk in colors of an ocean sunset. I dreamt of patterns emerging as I passed the shuttle back and forth, of waves undulating across the fabric, of the tide ebbing and flowing up and down the length of it.
Clusters of malformed blood vessels in my brain, cavernous angiomas, had bled, wreaking havoc: seizures, excruciating headaches, loss of balance. I could no longer weave. My dreams drowned in the chaos.
After surgery to prevent future bleeds, I emerged ready to rebuild.
I stood at the loom, baffled. Yards of shimmering silk dyed in the colors of sunset on the waters flowed through my fingers. I studied the thick back beam. I was supposed to tie the warp to an elusive thinner rod. What was a lark’s head knot? I fumbled, trying one thing, then another, until my hands took over, showing me the way. The heddles confused me, and I had to relearn the workings of the braking mechanism.
Whenever a problem arose, I hid under my covers and wept. Once I cried myself dry, I splashed cold water on my face, went back to the loom, worked things out, and continued warping.
Finally, I sat at my loom gazing at the warp stretched before me, looking forward to hours of meditative weaving. Shuttle in hand, I took a deep breath, eased the tension in my shoulders, relaxed my arms, and flicked my wrist, sending the shuttle flying across the warp, a trail of shimmering silk yarn behind it.
I sighed and settled in, watching the emerging pattern, dreaming about the finished piece, about the end to the brain injury nightmare, about recovery.
After I wove a few inches, I realized something wasn’t quite right. I puzzled over this feeling of disquiet, my gaze alternating between the woven strip and the virgin warp.
I tried to ignore that niggling voice in my mind, but it would not be silenced: I did not like the warp. I did not like the way its colors interacted with the weft. I tried to shrug it off: it actually looked pretty good. In fact, it looked very good. But…I didn’t want very good. I wanted, I needed, spectacular.
There was too much at stake here. This was no mere project; this was about my life, about becoming a whole person.
I fetched the scissors.
The second time around, warping the loom went smoothly, and the warp itself was everything I had dreamed of. Every so often I would pause in my weaving to admire the subtle pattern emerging, the interplay between colors, the reflections of light on the silk fabric. Once I completed the finishing process, I stepped back to admire it. It was a stunning creation with an essence of its own.