Rodeo visitors watch in fascination as a handweaver creates a festive cloth on a traditional four-harness loom, a device once common in American homes, but now known to many people only through history books. Nearby weaver Blaine Davis works on a tapestry stretched on a frame, letting inspiration guide him as he creates wavy patterns in colorful yarn. Davis says the first question he gets is — How long does it take?
“And I tell them 80 hours, 100 hours, and they’re just totally flabbergasted that something could take that long. They have no concept. I think when I say 100 hours they’re just totally dumbfounded, they don’t know what to do. They couldn’t imagine spending so much time doing something like that.”
And Davis says the next comment he gets is — You must have a lot of patience. But he adds it’s more about the process than the completed work.
“You know I don’t think it really takes patience. If I hated it, then I would be, you know, it would be tedious. It would be horrible. But I enjoy doing this.”
The Contemporary Handweavers of Houston have been a fixture at the rodeo for many years. They say their display is not a historical reenactment, but a demonstration of spinning and weaving as a modern craft. Nearby Rosemary Malbin is at work on the spinning wheel, turning wool from a Jacob Sheep into a tweedy gray and white yarn. Malbin says she enjoys demonstrating for farmers.
“They’re raising sheep and they don’t necessarily know what happens to the fiber after it’s sheared off the animal. So we show them how it’s processed by hand. We still do it by hand, although obviously it’s done in factories too. This is the slow way of doing it, the more artistic way of doing it.”
And for folks who don’t think they have what it takes to slow down and weave, Malbin points out that during the power outage following Hurricane Ike, when Houstonians were without their computers and video games, she could still spin at her wheel.
Gail Delaughter KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.