Heather and the Gaslight
For the first time in a long time, I bought cotton to warp my loom. I had some in different weights and colors (OK, I have LOTS…) but what I wanted, what I need to work through, is basic black and white. A particular set of variations… and it really needs to be 10/2, so that it looks elegant and not chunky. I’m wanting to get my loom back to working, and my hands back to making things, and I have to untangle some mess in my head. A sampler is what I need; it’s like running scales for a singer, or doing basic floor exercises for a gymnast. It centers you, helps you blow out the cobwebs, prepares your mind and your hands to tackle more serious work.
As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, back in 2013 I got knocked off kilter really badly by a couple of discussions. One of them was in person, and it put me in a bad emotional place. The second one was in an online forum, and while it wasn’t nearly as intense, it was a classic gaslighting situation – I started out feeling just insecure, and ended up questioning things that I knew, and digging through my old records trying to find evidence of how and when things happened… and not finding enough to ease my mind. It seriously made me question my sanity at some points. It definitely made me doubt my memory and my internal narrative of how I learned to do the things I do, what I learned and what I figured out.
A Mean Girl in an online forum, we’ll call her Heather, took a swipe at me which implied that one of my basic classes, which I had developed through years of work and refinement, was teaching another teacher’s whole class without giving appropriate credit. It was the kind of thing that would have been a petty jab, in a private message… but in a public forum, it undermined my authority as a teacher and my reputation as a decent person. In a butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-mah-mouth kind of way, she was calling me a liar and a thief. It was like one member of the Junior League leaning across the table and loudly stage-whispering to another member where everybody can hear, “You know, you can hardly even tell her chicken salad is from Walmart.”
So I started digging, trying to find any evidence, in old handouts and former students, to show that I had come by the information I was teaching from other sources. For quite a long time, I couldn’t find it. I had been teaching this information for a lot of years, starting in the late nineties, but I couldn’t find a handout with a photo from that far back. I was digging through the “transferred from old computer” file on my computers, because the computers of the 1990’s had died and been buried and forgotten, and my records weren’t all that great. I was trying to find old email archives that have disappeared from the Web… and not even archive.org could retrieve them. I apologized to Sara, the teacher who had published the information I was accused of appropriating, and I kept digging. Did I read an article of hers somewhere, and incorporate it into my class plan without remembering it? It’s like trying to remember if you wrote a song from scratch, or if it’s built around a snatch of music you heard at a park. It made my memory seem fuzzy and untrustworthy.
I exchanged a series of emotional emails with Sara. She started using a this set of patterns in 2004. I finally found a handout of mine from 2000, using the same pattern, and I eventually located and conversed by email with Robert Schweitzer, from whom I had gotten many of my formative tablet weaving ideas back in the 1990’s, back when the TWIST email list was the TWINE forum, on a Majordomo server where you had to communicate with the computer running it using text commands. I sorted out my timeline on teaching, and finally got to a point where I feel secure about what happened when, and whose work informed my teaching style. I feel like I’ve got my history straight, the genealogy of my craft is clarified, and I know that what I am teaching, I came by honestly. Sara and I are cool. Robert and I are cool. Heather and I aren’t friends – I mostly try to stay out of her way and do my best to believe that she acted out of some kind of misplaced good intention, instead of just being a bitch. I honestly think that it’s mostly just convergent evolution in action – multiple people using similar progressions because they’re logical and make sense for skill-building and progressive understanding.
This is the sampler from my basics class – the one that started all the noise. I’m really proud of it, and I think that it teaches the basics in a way that engages students and builds skill upon skill. And I’m grateful for all the people whose teaching helped to shape my own, and I’m secure in my own skill and knowledge.