July 1, 2021 – September 5, 2021
In the first months of 2020, we were alerted to the COVID-19 virus which changed our lives in various ways. Many countries, states, and metropolitan areas ordered a partial shut-down and enforced stay at home orders for non-essential workers. We had to adjust to social distancing, mask wearing, and hand sanitizing.
One outcome which intrigued and resonated with me was all the hand towels needing to be washed. I was born and raised in Northern Germany on a small farm where women used to weave their dowry, part of which were towels. Their initials would be embroidered at the bottom in either blue or red. Each woman would weave unique designs in natural linen which turned white and soft during years of usage and washing. I inherited handwoven towels from both grandmothers, my mother, an unmarried great aunt, and some which people gifted me, seeing that I use them daily.
With this lineage in mind, I wove towels during the pandemic. Each piece has the same setup on the loom. I put a traditional white cotton/linen warp on my loom. The first towels were woven in traditional patterns, exploring colors and design. From there I proceeded to inlay designs and shifted to more exploratory weaving. It gave me time to think about COVID-19 and how life had changed. I tried to reflect those changes in the towels. Afterwards I stitched and signed each one of them with COVID-19–as my initials would have been for domestic towels. Some messages were encouraging, some gave way to frustration and irony, while others were replaced with symbols and lines. By the time I had woven 45 pieces, there was only a signature, no more stitched messages. This was not intentional, but in resignation after 6 months of the pandemic and social distancing. Instead, I started dissecting the weave structure and explored possibilities which felt reflective of waves of thoughts and emotions we’ve experienced during COVID-19. We are going through stages, waiting, trying to live as normal as possible, worrying about money, denying what is happening, accepting the new way of life, and trying to figure out how to move forward from where we are. Some days are easier than others. This became visible in my weaving–not all the warp is woven, there are open spaces, mismatched yarns and ends hanging out freely. The patterns have mistakes, which are intentional–a reflection of what we are experiencing.
It is a reminder to me how fragile and interconnected our world is. We are not the first generation to experience a pandemic. The “Spanish Flu” was here 100 years ago and the world recovered. And so will we. Each towel is 18 x 13 in. and some punctuate the group and highlight point in time, from referencing graphs of statistics, to seasons passing, to national political events. They are mementos of 2020 and our current time.
About the Artist
Doerte Weber is a self taught weaver born in Germany and currently living and working in San Antonio, Texas. Her work has been exhibited internationally and is a part of numerous private and public collections. She is inspired by the history and work of Bauhaus women weavers. As fellow autodidacts they embraced free experimentation, learning by trial and error and were unhampered by previous knowledge.
Weber weaves with diverse modern, quotidian materials. In this process, she searches to push the boundaries of the materials and use the to tell broader stories and give the work specificity and context. Inspiration for her work comes from current events as well as everyday experience, creating something which seizes the moment and transforms it through medium and connection.
More at www.doerteweber.com.