A WEAVER GIVES AWAY HIS BLANKETS,
BUT WITH SOME STRINGS ATTACHED.
BY TINA BARSEGHIAN
With his ongoing art project Blanket Offer, town San Francisco and set up a table with three
Travis Meinolf attempts to connect the blankets that I’d woven. I put a sign next to it that
public at large with the ancient craft of weaving said: “If you need a blanket to keep you warm, you
in a slightly subversive way. The 29-year-old art can have one.” I just put them there, and left.
school graduate has spent the past year weaving TB: Did you watch to see who would pick them up?
woolen blankets ( 32 of them) and offering to give TM: No, I came back when the market was closed.
them away for free — sort of. He’s also designed a The space seemed well respected. Nothing had
pocket-sized, portable cardboard loom that makes been knocked over, and the blankets were taken.
it possible to weave cloth just about anywhere. The project was complete in my mind. Another time,
Tina Barseghian: How did you get started weaving? at a gallery installation, someone said, “I know I don’t
Travis Meinolf: My girlfriend at the time introduced need a blanket, but how do I get one?”
me to weaving in 2000. I inherited a floor loom from I didn’t sell it to him then, but the next time I had
my great aunt in Wisconsin. We were living with this an exhibit, I had the same sign and added, “But
tool that took up a lot of space, and our choice was if you just want one, you can buy it for $850 as a
either to embrace it, or have it be a white elephant. fine art sculpture.” Representing your need versus
We started using it and it became a big part of my something you want can happen in the art world.
life. I was seduced by the act, because it was so Another time, someone approached me to buy the
meditative, and had the end result of producing some- blanket, and I offered him a DVD that shows him the
thing. The setup of the loom is where most of the weaving process. I was attempting to show that it’s
design decisions are made. Once you actually start the labor that gives the objects value. He bought the
producing cloth, you’re in production mode and not DVD for $1,500, and got the blanket for free. Once
thinking about the design. I like to step in and have again, it’s entirely semantics. He was excited by the
it relax me and take away the thoughts of the day. fact that I would not sell the blanket but I would
TB: Why did you design a portable cardboard loom? manufacture a way for him to have the blanket.
TM: The idea behind it is that I can make cloth, and Another project I was working on was to take my
so can you. But people think they have to spend floor loom on wheels to street corners, parks, and
hundreds of dollars on a loom and set aside an entire museums, to show the weaving process and that
room in their house to do it. So I wanted to make a one person can produce fabric.
loom that I could give out to people, and that’s where TB: How was that received?
I came up with the laser-cut cardboard loom that fits TM: Really well. The part that I really enjoy is open-in your pocket. I give them away with instructions. ing up conversations about textile production that
TB: Tell me about your idea of giving blankets away. I couldn’t have without a loom with me. You couldn’t
TM: I first started weaving blankets with the idea walk up to someone on the street and start talking
that someone could use it and understand that it about the weaving heritage from their country out
was produced by one person’s hand. So the idea of of the blue. People came up and said, “Back in my
producing those first few blankets was that I would country, we would do it this way.” Or, “My grandfa-
offer them freely to anyone who really needed them, t »her did it with goat hair.” rather than give them to specific people or hold onto them. I wanted to brick that hoarding impulse. Turn the page for a lesson from Meinolf TB: Was it hard to give away so many hours of work? on a specially designed cardstock loom.
TM: I had to remove myself from the situation.
I rented a space in a market at U.N. Plaza in down- Tina Barseghian is editor-in-chief of CRAF T.