Weaving As a Profession

 Hi! I'm not a professional weaver, I only started having an interest in weaving a couple of years ago during my freshman year in highschool. For my 16th birthday my parents bought me a rigid heddle loom which I have really enjoyed using, though eventually my dream is to work up to a floor loom. As I near the end of my highschool years and begin to think of what I want to do with my life, my Mom has suggested that I consider weaving, since God has gifted me with a passion for it and skilled craftsmen are dying out. What I would like to know is if weaving is a practical career choice. Can you support yourself on weaving? Is there a market for handwoven products? What products sell best? Those of you who have chosen weaving as a source of income, how much do you charge for your products? I'd really appreciate any input, advice, etc. from all you expereinced weavers who have persued this course. Thank you!

 

- A Young Weaver

Comments

Posted on Mon, 08/27/2012 - 15:55

Hi,

I suggest you contact Vavstuga and consider their apprentice program.  You would learn a lot about weaving and the options you would have for making a career in weaving. Go to vavstuga.com or write to [email protected] 

Joanne

Posted on Mon, 08/27/2012 - 21:17

There is a whole new field opening up in interactive textiles. Not just LED's attached to clothing for decorative purposes, but clothing that can take readings, or respond to movements to signal information, or deliver information to the wearer. (Look up Dr. Lucy Dunne at the University of Minnesota.) One of the problems she recounts is that there is a gulf between engineers and apparel designers. It took a team of both to figure out a specific seam stitch that wouldn't cross threads and short out the electrical connections. Maybe you could be one of those team of developers with your weaving knowledge?

Also, there was an exhibit a few years ago about "extreme" textiles. Principals of weaving and knitting are being employed to solve complex non-textile problems like cardiopulmonary disease (with an implanted knit sock to constrict the heart muscle), or in architecture (a woven, breathable facade for a building). Can you pair any of your other interests with weaving for an interesting career?

Rabbit Goody weaves for the movie industry and high end designers, her speciality is reproduction textiles. What about textile restoration as a related field? 

Although I do not weave for a living, I have taken on commissions. One was to weave samples of sustainable fibers for a "green" clothing designer's line, and I bid on a project to weave with a test fiber that would remove specific pollutants from industrial waste. The developers of this fiber were Ph.D.'s but didn't know the technical details of weaving that would be required to weave their fiber successfully into test cloth. Yes, these were fascinating projects, but no, I could not support myself from the proceeds of this activity. On an hourly basis, I'd probably make more working as a clerk or waitressing.

I am not saying you can't make a living in a creative profession, because I certainly do. (Yep, I was an art major in college, and work in a design field.) To continue in my job, I have to keep expanding a diverse array of skills. Technical ability is just one of them. A career in weaving is the same. Except sadly, the world doesn't value this form of creative labor as it does other forms, so that is the challenge.

What I am saying is, don't sell yourself short. I think a more sustainable career might lie in a combination of technical and creative endeavors that include your weaving. I would suggest a good liberal arts degree as a solid base that will introduce you many different subjects, and work on developing your weaving skills as you go.

What has been amazing to me is how my work and weaving life continually intersect, to the benefit of both, financially and creatively. Feeling like you are doing something worthwhile is just as important as the money you'll be making, but at the same time, we can't live with our parents forever, and we can't count on a spouse to carry us.

By the way, I think it's great your Mom supports you!

Posted on Mon, 08/27/2012 - 22:21

Unfortunately weaving as a "profession" has largely disappeared. Even Germany, that had a full time weaving school in Sindelfingen until 2000 and continued examining candidates for "Master Weaver" until very recently, has revised the curriculum for weavers. Now, rather than a program for "handweaving", there is a professional designation for textile designer - incorporating, knit, crochet, embellishment, sufrace design, dyeing AND weaving.

The handful of weavers living from their handwork is best exemplified by Randall Darwall - who, in the meantime, is the inspiration and design hub for his firm, but who employs many others to successfully market his textiles.

If you are just starting out, you should look at where there are programs that teach not only handmade product, but industrial design as well. 

Posted on Wed, 08/29/2012 - 04:45

Where do you live? There are professional weavers in Sweden, although not very many I think. In the USA, it is very difficult to make a living as an independant artist or craftsperson. You will want some kind of retirement program and you will need health insurance, not just enough to pay the rent and buy some food and some yarn. If you live in a country with a national health service, that is a big help!

I think Sally had some good ideas. Another interesting role model is Elizabeth Wayland Barber, a weaver and spinner who made a very successful career in anthropology and archeology, studying ancient textile tools and ancient textiles.

Bonnie

Posted on Wed, 08/29/2012 - 07:27

We have a community college here in NB, Canada that focuses on textiles and fibre arts. Just a link here to their site to read.

 

New Brunswick College of Craft & Design

 

I think it would be real tough to make a living off weaving alone. It could be an income supplement, where by you have a regular job and sell a few items from time to time.

Posted on Wed, 08/29/2012 - 12:39

Here is a listing of colleges that have weaving programs: http://www.uscollegesearch.org/fiber-textile-and-weaving-arts-colleges.html

You may also want to contact (PM) tommye scanlin here on Weavolution.  Dr. scanlin was the professer in the textile program at North Georgia College for 100 years (lol)

Can you made a living as a weaver. The simple answer is yes, can you as a new weaver, no. It takes years to develope a reputation and a client list. A number of years ago I sold a floor loom to a girl at the University of Georgia, she gradatuated with her MFA degree and moved to NYC to work for a designer. She is now living in Chicago designing clothes for Target stores.

There is more to weaving then just throwing a shuttle. You have to understand the structure of cloth, color theory, marketing, display etc. Each one of these can be a career in the fashion industry. Keep your dream alive and have fun on your road to fulfilling that dream.

Michael

Posted on Wed, 08/29/2012 - 14:20

Michael,

I am not sure that link is very reliable in terms of the quality of the colleges listed and their programs. I see a lot of online, possibly for-profit institutions and tech schools, but I did not see some of the well-established, bricks and mortar institutions that are known for producing textile professionals.

Also, I think technical programs are terrific, but it has been my observation in a nearly 30 year career that a well-rounded graduate with solid writing and critical thinking skills will advance in any field quicker than someone who is trained in a particular skill set for a specific career.

One of the memorable quotes I heard in my day job was from a UT (Texas) engineering professor when we were talking about the historic lack of females in engineering fields. He noted many opted out when it came to the higher level math courses in middle/high school. Then he said something along the lines of "Anyone can be taught math skills, but we can't teach how to think creatively. The industry doesn't want to hire engineers that will come up with the same solutions, they want to hire engineers that will come up with solutions they hadn't thought of."

I wish more kids could be exposed to weaving at a young age, because I think it is the perfect blend of creative and technical skills. And not just learning to pass a shuttle. Figuring out project calculations and patterns is a great practical use for their budding math skills, not to mention physical activity if they are working at a floor loom. I think someone who has learned to weave before graduating from high school has opened a few more doors than their peers. (And I would certainly consider incorporating something about acquiring this set of unique skills as part of my college essay, to make my application stand out! ;-)

Posted on Wed, 08/29/2012 - 15:09

Posted on Fri, 09/07/2012 - 01:50

I just learned about Berea College (http://www.berea.edu/student-crafts/) this year from my cousin. Sounds like an amazing place! Weaving, wood, ceramics, broom making studios. And it is reasonably priced too! Wish I knew about this when I was looking at schools. They may have some info on careers in these types of crafts after college.

Posted on Fri, 09/07/2012 - 03:07

is also a college where the students have a required work component all four years, so they graduate with 0 debt. They have a weaving studio as one of the ways students can work off their tuition. Located just south of Branson, MO.

Posted on Fri, 09/07/2012 - 22:53

Kent State University, Kent, Ohio has a fiber and weaving program.  They have a fashion design school and museum, also.  They're doing some nice work there.

Shelley

Posted on Sat, 09/22/2012 - 17:06

 Thanks for all the replies! After a lot of research and thought, I think that trying to make a career out of weaving isn't really a practical idea, at least not for the forseeable future. I also enjoy acting and theatre, so I think I'll go to college and major in Theatre Education, but I'll always enjoy weaving and will definitely continue to do it on the side. Again, thanks to all of you who took the time to answer! It has helped me a lot!

Posted on Sat, 09/22/2012 - 17:09

 Thanks for all the replies! After a lot of research and thought, I think that trying to make a career out of weaving isn't really a practical idea, at least not for the forseeable future. I also enjoy acting and theatre, so I think I'll go to college and major in Theatre Education, but I'll always enjoy weaving and will definitely continue to do it on the side. Again, thanks to all of you who took the time to answer! It has helped me a lot!

Posted on Sat, 09/22/2012 - 17:10

 Thanks for all the replies! After a lot of research and thought, I think that trying to make a career out of weaving isn't really a practical idea, at least not for the forseeable future. I also enjoy acting and theatre, so I think I'll go to college and major in Theatre Education, but I'll always enjoy weaving and will definitely continue to do it on the side. Again, thanks to all of you who took the time to answer! It has helped me a lot!

Posted on Sat, 09/22/2012 - 17:11

 Thanks for all the replies! After a lot of research and thought, I think that trying to make a career out of weaving isn't really a practical idea, at least not for the forseeable future. I also enjoy acting and theatre, so I think I'll go to college and major in Theatre Education, but I'll always enjoy weaving and will definitely continue to do it on the side. Again, thanks to all of you who took the time to answer! It has helped me a lot!

Posted on Sat, 09/22/2012 - 17:13

 Thanks for all the replies! After a lot of research and thought, I think that trying to make a career out of weaving isn't really a practical idea, at least not for the forseeable future. I also enjoy acting and theatre, so I think I'll go to college and major in Theatre Education, but I'll always enjoy weaving and will definitely continue to do it on the side. Again, thanks to all of you who took the time to answer! It has helped me a lot!

Posted on Sat, 09/22/2012 - 17:13

 Thanks for all the replies! After a lot of research and thought, I think that trying to make a career out of weaving isn't really a practical idea, at least not for the forseeable future. I also enjoy acting and theatre, so I think I'll go to college and major in Theatre Education, but I'll always enjoy weaving and will definitely continue to do it on the side. Again, thanks to all of you who took the time to answer! It has helped me a lot!

Posted on Sat, 09/22/2012 - 17:15

 Thanks for all the replies! After a lot of research and thought, I think that trying to make a career out of weaving isn't really a practical idea, at least not for the forseeable future. I also enjoy acting and theatre, so I think I'll go to college and major in Theatre Education, but I'll always enjoy weaving and will definitely continue to do it on the side. Again, thanks to all of you who took the time to answer! It has helped me a lot!

Posted on Sat, 09/22/2012 - 17:15

 Thanks for all the replies! After a lot of research and thought, I think that trying to make a career out of weaving isn't really a practical idea, at least not for the forseeable future. I also enjoy acting and theatre, so I think I'll go to college and major in Theatre Education, but I'll always enjoy weaving and will definitely continue to do it on the side. Again, thanks to all of you who took the time to answer! It has helped me a lot!

Posted on Sat, 09/22/2012 - 17:15

 Thanks for all the replies! After a lot of research and thought, I think that trying to make a career out of weaving isn't really a practical idea, at least not for the forseeable future. I also enjoy acting and theatre, so I think I'll go to college and major in Theatre Education, but I'll always enjoy weaving and will definitely continue to do it on the side. Again, thanks to all of you who took the time to answer! It has helped me a lot!

Posted on Sat, 09/22/2012 - 17:17

 Thanks for all the replies! After a lot of research and thought, I think that trying to make a career out of weaving isn't really a practical idea, at least not for the forseeable future. I also enjoy acting and theatre, so I think I'll go to college and major in Theatre Education, but I'll always enjoy weaving and will definitely continue to do it on the side. Again, thanks to all of you who took the time to answer! It has helped me a lot!

Posted on Sat, 09/22/2012 - 17:17

 Thanks for all the replies! After a lot of research and thought, I think that trying to make a career out of weaving isn't really a practical idea, at least not for the forseeable future. I also enjoy acting and theatre, so I think I'll go to college and major in Theatre Education, but I'll always enjoy weaving and will definitely continue to do it on the side. Again, thanks to all of you who took the time to answer! It has helped me a lot!

Posted on Sat, 09/22/2012 - 17:28

 Thanks for all the replies! After a lot of research and thought, I think that trying to make a career out of weaving isn't really a practical idea, at least not for the forseeable future. I also enjoy acting and theatre, so I think I'll go to college and major in Theatre Education, but I'll always enjoy weaving and will definitely continue to do it on the side. Again, thanks to all of you who took the time to answer! It has helped me a lot!

Posted on Sat, 09/22/2012 - 17:39

 Thanks for all the replies! After a lot of research and thought, I think that trying to make a career out of weaving isn't really a practical idea, at least not for the forseeable future. I also enjoy acting and theatre, so I think I'll go to college and major in Theatre Education, but I'll always enjoy weaving and will definitely continue to do it on the side. Again, thanks to all of you who took the time to answer! It has helped me a lot!

Posted on Sat, 09/22/2012 - 17:42

 I am SO sorry! My webpage kept shutting down while I was writing that last comment, and apparently every time it reloaded it posted the comment. And it won't let me get rid of them! 

Posted on Wed, 10/10/2012 - 02:40

My spouse was the only female in her civil engineering class at Cal State Long Beach.  She graduated at the top of her class but she was restricted in her career intially because in civil engineering it is a carreer enhancement to have field experience and many construction managers would not let her out in the field because she was a woman.  Ana went on to get her MBA and became a Cost Scheduling Engineer an intensely math oriented discipline.  One of the problems Ana and I ran into was that an American engineer with 4 or 5 years experience is much more expensive to hire than a newly graduated engineer from a foriegn college in places such as India or Pakistan.  We ran into the problem of cost of employment. We overcame this problem by starting our own engineering company to design-build machinery and autonomous vehicles and so we were successful in a field that we defined but we took a path few travel. one fo the reasons we were able to overcome the problem of cost was that even with out overhead and profit we were still less expensive that an empolyee and the cost of hiring us could be considered an expense which has tax benefits. I believe one can be successful in their chosen field but they need to deviate from the model most use and to build their own career: a move fraught with pitfalls and one that requires perseverance, time to build business relationships and tons of intestinal fortitude! :)