If you are reading this "beta" post, then you are a SAORI instructor, weaver, studio member or student acquainted with the general history of SAORI weaving and founder Misao Jo. You have a copy of the SAORI "bible", SAORI: Self-Innovation Through Free Weaving (2012) or an earlier edition. And you are familiar with the four basic SAORI principles:
- Consider the differences between people and machines
- Be bold and adventurous
- Look out through 'eyes that shine'
- Inspire and learn from everyone in the group
So you will understand my trepidation in starting a journey that takes SAORI itself as the subject of inquiry. Much like the cloth we weave, this journey has no clear destination. But then, much like the cloth we weave, it is undertaken with faith in the nature of creative travel. This "faith" is one of the pillars of SAORI philosophy, a commitment Misao Jo expressed repeatedly in her reflective essays in Self-Innovation.
And this faith wholly absorbed me as I sat behind Misao-san in a car a few months ago, en route to a hanami (cherry blossom viewing or festival) in Osaka prefecture. I had learned about SAORI weaving in Philadelphia from the book, and studied in the U.S. with my Japanese sensei (Mihoko Wakabayashi, SAORI Worcester, MA); my trip to Japan in early spring, 2016 was my first opportunity to meet Misao Jo. But there I was, sitting behind Misao-sensei as Kenzo Jo drove the car to the festival. We passed countless flowering cherry trees along the highway, but my attention was most keenly focused on Misao-san, fragile and silent in the seat in front of me. And as we traveled, I realized that I could also just see her face in the side view mirror (on the left, of course!), and it seemed as if she was watching me intently as I tried to capture the moment with my camera.
So I was poised both behind and facing our founder, between SAORI's rock and its creative source. And I felt both a tremendous responsibility, and a tremendous challenge - the responsibility to honor and transmit the gift of SAORI philosophy and weaving, and the challenge to understand it as completely as possible, in spite of being an American weaver and SAORI instructor requiring translation for Japanese language and culture.
That was the first prompt for this "blog" experiment. The second prompt was conversations with SAORI students about the meaning of "weaving without intention"in SAORI and the relation of "wabi sabi" to SAORI weaving. I began a course of study in order to more effectively answer and guide these and other students. Since I do not speak Japanese, I've had to rely on all available dictionaries, online translators, and translations.
In my weaving world: SAORI weaving is learned at a loom, in a SAORI studio, guided by an experienced and approved SAORI guide. A copy of Self-Innovation is the starting point for serious thinking in addition to weaving. SAORI is not taught virtually and there will be no technical weaving instruction here. Rather, the plan is to share reflections and research, and to engender thoughtful conversations about the reach of SAORI philosophy and weaving. These posts and the conversations in comments will be the fruit of that research.
The reflections shared here are entirely my own, the result of how I have understood and incorporated the teachings I've received - directly and indirectly - from so many patient and generous Japanese teachers and colleagues in the United States and Japan, and the countless SAORI weavers who have shared their thoughts and weaving through various electronic sources. As a SAORI guide, I have to admit that the ideas shared here would never have been articulated but for the patience and generosity of the students and members of my studio, who both challenge and delight me with their perseverance and beautiful weaving, their penetrating questions, and their interest in exploring SAORI as an approach to creative process and way of life beyond weaving.
So find your copy of Self-Innovation (or it’s predecessor, SAORI: Self-Discovery through Free Weaving) and we’ll start together in the next post.