If I thought using mohair as warp presented a few difficulties on my Knitters’ Loom, I hadn’t reckoned on trying to weave with fondant icing. I’ve made a few birthday cakes in my time – monsters, Superman, Thomas the Tank Engine to name but a few – but I hadn’t reckoned on the nerve-rackingly extensive possibilities of passing a few sugary coloured warps and wefts by each other.
With my multi-coloured edible ‘weaving’ trying to escape off the top, it was with trepidation that I presented Jean, our spinning group’s longest-serving member, with her 80th birthday cake at our meeting on Tuesday evening. It reminded me of weaving with bamboo yarn – beautiful colours, horrendous elasticity! Still in both circumstances, I displayed ‘Resilience’ and ‘Results orientation’ – two characteristics common amongst successful business women, according to McKinsey’s recent report ‘Unlocking the full potential of women at work’.
Other characteristics these ‘top women’ exhibit are apparently a ‘Robust Work Ethic’ and ‘Team Leadership’. Jean is certainly a team-leader, having cajoled our group along for about 30 odd years, and both it and Jean are still, thankfully, going strong. And none of us spinners would ever get through a whole fleece if we didn’t have a ‘robust work ethic’. Though these types of report are well meant, they do somewhat irk me. Forty plus years on from the so-called second wave of the feminist movement, do we still really need reports exploring “barriers to women’s success”?
Aren’t we actually pretty successful already? Look at the calibre of people on the Prince's Trust Women's Leadership Group. Aren’t we already living by the old maxim that “people take you at your own valuation” and confidently treading our chosen paths? The McKinsey report says that where women lead a business organisation: “Diversity of thought thrives, …fuelling creativity and innovation.” But isn’t that just what women do anyway? Form an evolutionary viewpoint it comes with the territory: you need to find strategies which enable you and your progeny to survive, so we’re programmed for innovation.
The Desperate Artwives, featured in the Guardian Women’s Blog on Monday, have been highly innovative in pulling together their forthcoming show. Many of us will identify with curator, Althea Greenan’s comment that: "Women's art practice is rich in disruptions, side tracks, blurred boundaries and multiple identities.” Yet sometimes these stresses can play to our advantage. Desperation can drive serendipitous marriages of unusual materials, colour combinations, or finishing strokes on a painting.
Maybe we should embrace what’s around us as we work at our crafts, along with all our messy or abandoned attempts at making something beautiful. Even going back to basics and taking our craft apart can be refreshing, as those involved in the touring exhibition ‘Raw Craft’ demonstrate. Whether you’re a writer, a spinner, a jeweler, a painter or a weaver, we can all take inspiration from the familiar things around us and the people we love. Here’s hoping you can find extraordinary inspiration in every-day life this week.