Interview with Weaver Maryanne Moodie

I am often intrigued by artists who choose to preserve traditions - artists who elect to move slowly, repetitively, and hone a skill that is no longer applied as it once was.

Maryanne Moodie is an Australian textile artist based in Brooklyn, New York. She is a master weaver. She explores the tradition of weaving and tapestry while playing with color, form, and texture to bring new life to an ancient art. She is very involved in the textile art community in New York and spends much of her time teaching the skill to others through workshops world-wide. 

What inspired you to work with fibers?

I have always been drawn to textiles. I love vintage textiles that carry a story of past lives and times a-changing. I love looking at a dress that has had the darts moved, or the hem let down, or a different button added; or looking at a hole in a quilt that has been darned, ways people have loved and cared for them and tried to extend their lives. I love the way that handmade textiles have a specialness to them that demands to be cherished.  

When did you begin weaving and how did you learn the skill?

I began weaving almost 4 years ago, and it’s all self-taught. Lots of reading books and a little internet trawling.

What are you inspired by visually?

Vintage textiles, traditional costumes, avant-garde fashion, contemporary art, unexpected combinations in nature.

How long are your weaving stints normally?

About 4-5 hours. I weave almost every day.

Do you have any studio rituals?

Yes, emails first, then put the computer away. Pop on a podcast or playlist, select the yarns for the day and have them close. Lay out my tools. Warp up the loom whilst I'm letting my ideas marinate between pre-existing designs and the textures and colours of the yarn I’ve been drawn to that day. Then lose myself in weaving. It can be quite hypnotic. Sometimes I have to stand back and take in all that I have done because working so close to your work can make you lose sight of the bigger picture. Halfway through, I usually get up, grind some beans, and make a coffee.  IF I’m lucky I have some biscuits or muffins that I have made over the weekend that I can munch on whilst I’m looking at my work with a critical eye and deciding on future directions.

Do you feel that weaving is a meditation?

Totally!

Lets talk about art vs. craft -a discussion that always gets brought up, though personally I think they go hand in hand. What are your thoughts about this dialogue in the art world?

I like to think of myself as a 'maker'. That sort of gets me out of most sticky situations.  I feel like as soon as you align yourself one way or another, then you are essentially cutting off one arm and all that comes with that.  And so in thinking of myself as a maker, I can keep the utilitarian side of creating and still walk the line between art and craft.

The process of weaving and tapestry is a historically female-dominated tradition. Does this history influence your practice in any way?

I am very passionate about women’s issues and pushing us forward in our development in current society. I believe that we had lost the 'women circle' of old where grandmothers and mothers and relatives would sit around, teach each other, and hand down skills.  Our society took on a very masculine trait of ownership of skills and the idea that we needed to hide our work and practice in fear that someone might 'steal' or 'copy' it.  This is really sad to me.  I believe that sharing and talking is really our Superpower as women.  We need to embrace this and get back to a point where we encourage each other in our journeys and grow together.  The more we share, the more we grow as people, as a community, and as a society.

At She/Folk we’re very passionate about supporting female creatives and business entrepreneurs, and I’ve personally noticed a tight-knit community surrounding artists who run in similar fiber veins. Do you feel like this sense of community support has always been there? 

I think you could find small pockets of women sharing their knowledge and craft.  They sometimes can feel quite exclusive or remote, like trying to maneuver yourself into a tight-knit group of friends or relatives, but now with the internet, we have the opportunity to make those connections across the world.  So it is not just connecting with 3-4 people in your city who share your interests, but thousands of people across the world.

I’ve noticed some conversations on Instagram about plagiarism vs inspiration in the fiber art world. Fiber artists are basically reinventing or paying homage to years and years of tradition. Can you talk a little bit about this and your experience specifically?

I believe that nothing is new and no one owns weaving.  I like to think that I teach the building blocks of skills and send my students off to 'build their own house'.  I have started a hashtag #weaveweird where I want to capture some really inspiring fiber artists who are pushing the boundaries and creating new and exciting results.  I am happy for people to use my pieces as inspiration and essentially synthesize them with new/old/weird ideas to create something of their own.  Then we all get inspired all over again by the possibilities of using what is there as a launching pad to create newness.

It seems like you’re always teaching workshops and classes. Why did you decide to teach?

I had been an art teacher for 10 years prior to weaving and sort of lost my passion along the way. Weaving was able to relight my passion for teaching and sharing.

Who can you count on to always make you laugh?

My 2.5 son Murray is pretty bloody funny. That being said, most of the laughter is my husband and I laughing AT him, not with him. But he has actually carved himself a wicked little sense of humour on the side.

Who are some of your favorite female fiber artists today?

I love Tanya Aguiniga for her willingness to experiment and push herself, as well as her commitment to community development; Emily Katz for her macrame goodness; and Meghan Shimek for always pushing the boundaries of her personal practice, developing her business ethically, and sharing her knowledge.

Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Of course.