value the brain & cut the priviledge
The Pull of the Needle: Diana Weymar and the Landscape of Cloth
by Amy Meissner
In any environment there exists an Inevitable Season, an undercurrent that
informs inhabitants of what to do, where to go and when. In the far north, despite
the intensity of summer’s light-stretched days, all birth and impossible growth and
exhaustion, the scent and thrum of winter always exists on the periphery, waiting.
Sometimes we look askance, whisper its name. To have this adamant ghost as
part of the landscape at any point in one’s life — childhood, adulthood,
parenthood — builds an unrelenting understanding that never entirely leaves the
psyche. The creative impulse can’t be ignored or set aside for another day,
because the time is now, the time is now, the time is now.
Winter is coming.
When first introduced to images of artist Diana Weymar’s contemporary
embroidery, I felt instantly connected to its tactile, insistent quality. I lingered over
folds and layers of the intimate stitched work and manipulated found objects,
considered her steps, her thought process. It wasn’t surprising to learn she spent
part of her childhood in northern British Columbia, Canada, a vast, unpredictable
landscape, hinged to shifting light and season. As a northerner, I recognize the
persistent need to shape and create forms that explore the existing or
unremarkable objects of a life, honoring hand skills, self sufficiency and a
demand to question, create and transform. With magnetic intensity, we point to
cloth, object and back to the self.
Insistent work exists on the knife edge of manic and necessary. Deep in the
creative act — when a maker isn’t bound by time, nor considers it a constraint —
lies the realm where insistence is most obvious: hundreds — no, thousands — of
marks or movements that could be made any number of faster ways are instead
layered with a mind-bending slowness, considered, punched and then pulled
We could take a photograph. We could type a thought. But what lodges a
memory more deeply in the mind than the physical experience? If there are life
moments we’re unwilling to forget, questions we’re compelled to mine, then we
turn to the physicality of making. Weymar’s manipulation of memory is evident in
her handwork; the use of images, text and objects, yes, but time, itself, has
wound its way in and around each knot. Memory becomes another layer, re-
remembered, perhaps even permanently altered through the process of making.
For women artists who maintain a studio practice when their children are young,
there are seasons when the domestic landscape is just as bleak as the most
northern, contributing to the slow unraveling of self. The historic significance of
reaching for cloth isn’t lost on contemporary needle workers and fiber artists,
many of whom are mothers. Cloth is understood despite the inevitability of its
migration, abandonment and constant unearthing in and around the demands of
children, family and home. When I discover other artists who’ve embraced this
form, without apology, without question, without some historic burden of craft
versus art, I’m immediately in kinship. The work provides a way of existing in the
slow moment while still exercising the tireless will, despite the surrounding chaos
that wants always to draw us away. As generations of women understood, the
pull of the needle is an urgent companion. We seek the tool, it disappears
beneath our hands, it re-emerges again. It represents a balance.
There are many reasons why one would stab a needle into cloth, not all with the
intent to create beauty although this may emerge. Some of the impulse I
recognize in Weymar’s current textile-based work arises from the unrelenting
need to repeat and refine, containing one’s thoughts to this realm of repetition.
By slowing the hand, the mind is held to the landscape of cloth, but within it is the
freedom to wander and expand, fully considering the next word or stitch before
each plunge, embracing the luxury of the tautness of thought. When onlookers
remark on the likes of us hunched over this old way of working, it’s often with,
“Oh, my mother embroidered,” or “My grandmother was a seamstress.” But what
stories did those women bury in cloth? What narratives hid, folded and silent in
their laps? Which unspoken words were couched in that drum of a hoop? Mark
upon mark, stitch after stitch, they may well have been their best selves in that
stolen time, blanketing, transforming and fully ruling that remote land.
Amy Meissner is an artist and writer who spent 7 years in British Columbia before
being drawn farther north 16 years ago. Her award winning contemporary textile
work has exhibited nationally, and is in the permanent collection at the
Anchorage Museum and various private collections. She currently lives with her
family in Anchorage, Alaska, cleans trash off remote beaches in Prince William
Sound each summer and blogs about the collision of history, family and art.
The following images are from Weymar’s newest body of work, she continues to work on the series (summer 2016).
The following series by Diana Weymar is titled Telegraph Creek.
(*click on the first image to move into a slide show view, images will then enlarge.)
Weymar created the work below as part of the Victoria Writers Festival in 2013.
The John Mcphee Sampler, works by Diana Weymar
Diana Weymar’s series Artifacts 2013-2015.
Follow Diana Weymar at https://www.facebook.com/diana.weymar
and from her website: dianaweymar.com
And read more from Amy Meissner as well as to see her textile-based work at at amymeissner.com