This is not my obsession, but I do find that after a conversation with Shirley I pay more attention to details. And indeed, there are challenges in using handmade textiles. I've found, for instance, that it's a good idea to wash them gently before using; often there's a lot of sizing, sometimes excess dye, and just plain dirt in the wash water. You do take a chance by washing as dyes may crock--but a mudcloth throw that's still stiff with mud is a lot more useful on the table after a bath. Another challenge is matching patterns when stitching pieces together. Handwoven textiles often don't match precisely; there are variations in the size of the yarns and the tension of the weaving as well as variations in dye-lot colors.
To me, this is an important part of the charm--somebody made this, and then she stopped to cook lunch and then started up again in a slightly different place, and so the wings of the bird don't quite come together precisely. I love that! I can imagine how she sat at the loom (in a chair? on a bench? on the ground?) and whether it was hot and humid, indoors or outdoors, in a quiet place or in a chaotic market. Maybe she only had time to weave or stitch when the kids were sleeping or at school; maybe she succeeded in making them be quiet because she had to finish the piece in order to get paid that week
This is one of my favorite pieces, a huipil hand woven in Guatemala.
You can see that it was woven in two strips, then sewn together in the center. Of course, the horizontal stripes don't match, one bird is cut off, and the color of the bottom stripe has changed.
I just couldn't resist that.
We can buy handmade things and call them art and hang them on the wall, or we can call them "folk art" and consider them quirky and ourselves superior for forgiving their imperfections (which seems pretty condescending to me). People hurled insults at the Impressionists, the Fauves, the Abstractionists and probably every other new school of art over time. A lot of them collected "primitive" art from Africa, not because it was folk art, but because it exhibited incredibly sophisticated use of mass and line in ways far outside what they had been taught. They learned from it and acknowledged the debt.
Art isn't perfection--in fact, "perfection" is probably irrelevant to art. I look for the hand of the maker and the invitation to share the vision of another. It's an act of courage to throw your vision out to the public, whether it's a shawl or a sculpture. I can copy that, too.