Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thursday Thoughts...

“Work on a good piece of writing proceeds on three levels: a musical one, where it is composed; an architectural one, where it is constructed; and finally, a textile one, where it is woven.” 

Walter Benjamin, One-Way Street and Other Writings

I like it when people think about one thing but can use other experiences to describe it.  Like how in this quote, he is able to give us a sense of writing, through our understanding of music, of building and of textiles.

I stopped and read this a few times, thinking it through, feeling it and testing if my experiences mirror his, and if what he uses to describe writing helps me understand his experience of writing, and I found that it did.

My next thought was to see if the same ideas and descriptors could apply to how I feel art is created, and in many ways I think they can.

Firstly the idea of composing - of dreaming up the ideas or the insights that create the sense of what comes next; the sense of flowing like a musical score as it lilts and drifts and takes its own beautiful course. I think there is a musical composition part of creating art. Muses and music.

Secondly the architectural and construction part seems very true to me.  We all know this part well; the actual hands-on doing, of the making or the painting, drawing, sculpting, stitching, felting, dyeing, printing, photographing that we each do. Sometimes this is the only part that some people see taking place. How often do you overhear folk saying "Oh I could do that" when viewing a piece? Like the doing is all that there is.

Thirdly the sense of weaving...I think this is the part that if often unclear to the eye but is held in the essence of the work.  It is for me the part where we try to bring together a range of ideas or concepts, and use our materials to express or support those thoughts, emotions or concerns. Like choosing the size of a piece to add to its story; or the juxtapositioning of things to create tension and ask people to react; or hiding messages so that people need to work their way into a piece, to discover the layers.

This weaving is the strength and integrity of good work I think. Without it the composing and the construction are almost two-dimensional; whereas for me, the weaving part makes it three-dimensional and fully realised.

I think this is wise advice to any young writer, and for any artist (whatever their age!).

Musical composition, architectural construction, textile weaving. Perfection.


  1. Great post Fiona. And ofcourse i now was thinking it over relating to my own art. That was wonderful to do, because yes it's true. And i will never forget this wisdom again. The birdsnest is tender and perfect.

    Sweet greetz, Monica

  2. it really is great advice and with time and repetition you hone even those 3 things... that was a beautiful way to write about the universal aspect of making...

  3. Great post, Fiona - I love:

    "How often do you overhear folk saying "Like the doing is all that there is" - so true... there is sooo much more to it. There's commitment. Reminds me a bit of a quote from Itzak Perlman. Someone went up to him after a concert and said "I'd give my life to play like that", Perlman answered, "I have!".

  4. What a perfect description of creating a piece - of writing or of physical artwork! This is exactly how I craft my writing, be it a poem or a blog post - it has to flow in composition like music, be strong and sturdy and balanced in structure like a building, but there is that third element of interconnectedness where the whole piece becomes more than the sum of its parts, and that really is similar to what happens with textiles, how the patterns can shift and change after they are complete. Great post, F!

  5. What a fascinating post! I too am amazed when people or myself say, "Oh, I can do that". Because, as you say it is the composing and the weaving, of course, that make a thing what it is. The doing is just the visible portion.

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. A wonderful quote - and you took it even further. This will give me food for thought today. And the bird's nest - the perfect example...

  7. What a great way to view things Fiona. I have never heard of Walter Benjamin so must dig a little to see what else he has come up with. A perfect image from you too - doesn't that beautiful nest just capture the meaning of that phrase.

  8. Thanks for stopping by and sharing thoughts Monica, it's interesting how these words apply to our art I think.

    Thanks MJ - as you say we keep honing and improving all three elements...

    I love that quote Valerianna! So true!

    Hi G/TT - it's so good when somebody capture the way we see or do things isn't it? Ihtink this is beautiful way of thinking about building and putting together our work.

    Thanks Jo - this quote really helped me work that bit out for myself. That the doing is the visible bit - butte other bits re what make our work unique.

    Ah yes Stregata, I thought the bird's nest was almost a wordless example.

    Hi Lesley - he's new to me too, but this was so simple yet insightful. And nests...they need nothing added.


I appreciate your thoughts and comments; thanks for taking the time.