If I were pressed to choose one scientist among all of the artists we have the pleasure of working with at
Fiber College, Linda Whiting would be the obvious choice. She is precise, researches her projects from many angles and is able to communicate her knowlege with an alacrity that can only be derived from extensive reading. In a perfect world, I would spend days at her side just listening to where her ideas come from and the direction she’s going to take her inspiration tomorrow.
Linda wrote these responses to the Fiber College Interview 2008:
There never was a time I can recall having idle hands. Sunday in our house when I was growing up was always ‘family day’. When it was good outdoor weather we’d be out hiking or taking a drive or some other active pastime. Winter months found us engaged more often than not in some collective creative pursuit. This acorn didn’t fall far from that tree.
1. We know that interest in textiles and fibers evolve over time. What
is your currant passion? I guess I would have to say that my current passion is working with color. While color has always been a major focus for me in one way or another I love working with dyes, creating unique color combinations and blends. I get a real charge watching things happen in the dye pans and seeing the fiber when it is hung out to dry, the yarns re-skeined and the roving carded and spun.
2. Did you start directly with this form of the art or did you progress
through a series of interests? Photography has always been a tool for me.
Digital cameras have made it so much easier because I can take a huge number of photos changing light and angle, distance and focus. I love whimsy and humor, strong colors, soft colors and simple graphics. I made stuffed toys to put myself though school, have knit since a small child, and have played around with a number of fiber arts. For many years I concentrated on quilting but found the process somewhat slow. Amish-style quilts have been a great favorite because of the strong simple shapes and interplay of color.
While dyeing feeds the color creative side of me it is fleeting in nature because I sell most of what I dye or use it in teaching. Tapestry weaving really serves my color soul. I love ‘painting’ with yarns I have dyed to create something more lasting. Warping for tapestry takes very little time in comparison to harness weaving. The painterly process is fulfilling in that a tapestry weaver is intimately involved in every pass of the weft through the warp. My yarn is my paint, my weaving needle or bobbin my paintbrush. The weaving is totally absorbing intellectually and creatively.
I can create something graphic or something very realistic, something with a plan or totally spontaneous. I can weave with subtlety or with broad strokes and be equally satisfied with every step of the process.
3. What or who fired your initial flames of artistry? My mom and dad
provided me many opportunities to be creative. We made our Christmas cards and presents, we worked with clay and cut paper, built ‘things’ in the cellar shop, went to art and craft shows, and were always ‘making’
something. My mom taught me to sew, to embroider and to knit. My dad ‘tried out’ art projects with us at home before he had his students do them in school. It was a wonderful way to grow up. Creatively we were never told ‘no’.
4. Where do you find your inspiration? As a child I spent lots of time
outdoors experiencing the sounds, sights and smells wherever I was. We spent time in the woods, at the seashore, at the lakes and mountains. These places were/are my natural habitat. Living not that far from NYC we were often exposed to museums and galleries and experiences that are still a part of me today. My inspiration comes mostly from the natural world but can come from anything I see, hear or experience in any way. A flash of color against another, the play of light in the leaves, the wing of a bird or butterfly, the petal of a flower. All are fodder for an active imagination. What’s your biggest challenge? I could accomplish so much more if there were six of me!
So, yes, time, studio space, money. all these things are a challenge. The thing is to just keep DOING, to keep exploring, to push the limits and never let the creative juices get bottled up. Just keep doing, find a rhythm and never give up thinking and dreaming, imagining all the things there are to do and ways to do them. To NOT follow the creative path is to die a slow and painful death.
5. What’s the biggest payoff? The biggest payoff is the joy each
creative moment can bring. The real charge is having it all make sense to my students.
6. Emotions are a major driver of our passions; does your art make you
satisfied from the moment you start or are there moments of anxiety as the process evolves.do you see the finished product differently as time passes?
An idea might percolate in my head for a long time before I ever commence work on it. By the time it is in my hands the real work has been done. I might change course here and there or set the project aside from time to time but essentially what I see is in my mind’s eye. I am not an anxious person and am willing to work on until the piece is completed. It evolves as it progresses and almost becomes itself on its own accord. I just own the hands that allow it to happen.
7. What best describes your personal learning style? I learn by observing, by taking what I observe and allowing my brain to play with it, to allow my creative side to bend and twist around a concept or object to make it my own. Then I let the whimsy take over and take me wherever it leads. I look at things and read and process and then just let go and let whatever happen that will. It is hard for me to conform to a single path when others are presented. Your personal teaching style? In teaching I like to give minimal rules and maximum encouragement, to share what I have learned so that others may go beyond just the bare bones and really feel like they can go ahead on their own. I like to provide possibilities, to encourage experimentation and creative impulse. Too many people believe they don’t have ‘creative bones’ because they have been told so. I want to help them find their creative wings and the courage to use them.
8. What would a perfect fiber shop look like? There would be plenty of good light and windows even if they only show the sky. There would be lots of natural wood and light walls, a variety of tools and work spaces, books and all kinds of fiber in all kinds of colors. There would always be enough of what I wanted rather than have to make substitutions. There would be people to answer questions, perhaps an interactive computer system to reach fiber artists around the world. There would be rooms for many kinds of fiber arts and they would be open 24 hours a day. Do you have any favorite haunts that come close? Only the one in the figment of my Newton.
9. How will those who wander through the Fiber College grounds best recognize you? I will be the one with short dark hair, my camera and sandals. Probably talking with someone about color, dyeing, or books.
10. In a perfect world, how would you spend your time? Where would your passions take you if there were no restraints? Ah, that is one of the easiest of the questions! I would have a smallish house with a large studio in some natural surrounding, hopefully with a vista, and a dye ‘kitchen’.
I’d have a place to do tapestry and a place to teach, people coming to stay for “color play” and discussion. I’d be there working/playing when I wanted and be able to take off when the spirit moved me – where would I go? Anywhere that had something that interested me – I’d take classes, visit artists, travel and take photographs. I would search out different kinds of artists in countries all over and stay with them a while to learn more about how they did things, how they used color and become a student of creative life.
Beyond these questions I am a kite in the sky. I would need several clones to do half of what I would like to be able to accomplish. While my body is in one place my thoughts fly here and there on creative breezes tied only by that slender string that keeps me grounded in the here and now. The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.