Building the Loom

Today, while sorting papers and putting things away, I came across a scrap of paper with this drawing on it, on the right.
Loom drawing.
You can see from the drawing that

  1. My drawing skills were not very good, and
  2. I didn’t really draw so much as create symbols, and
  3. I had no idea how to draw what I was seeing or thinking, and
  4. I had a cruddy sense of what I was trying to create.

But, from this drawing, I was able to make the loom that you see here below, and on the left. It doesn’t look anything like the drawing, actually. There are radical differences in form between one and the other.  The plates in the drawing on the sides of the loom, the ones with the four curved grooves in them, are completely missing from the model below.  The box-like shape of the drawing is missing from the final version, and the cross-bars that help stabilize the ‘drawing of the loom’ are actually created in the ‘loom that was built’ by alternating the height of the left-right pieces and the top-bottom pieces. Maybe the words I’m typing here don’t make any sense.

But LOOK AT THE PICTURES, MAN!

Loom with work in progress
the loom-as-built

I assure you, the drawing on the right (although only photographed today) was the basis of the design of the loom that you see on the left. The loom that’s been working in, and serving, my school’s second grade class for more than a year.

This is design thinking in action. My friend Matt and I looked at a bunch of photographs of looms, and tried to figure out the simplest possible design we could envision.  And then we drew it a bunch of times, and then we simplified that… All it is is a simple frame of wood held together with screws, a spacer rod to create tension at the bottom, and a heddle to separate the warp and weft threads at the correct arrangement to weave the cloth.

Deeply simple. Simply deceptive.

The drawing does not match the device.  But without the drawing, there would be no device.  Matt and I would not have understood how to create the physical object without the 2-d, flat description.

I hope that this brief demonstration helps to convince you, O reader, of the importance of teaching visual literacy skills to your students.  It’s not enough to help them learn to read a graphic, or understand a picture, or interpret a Renaissance painting. That’s part of visual literacy, yes.  But if you’re not teaching them to make back-of-the-napkin drawings, at the very least, you’re preventing them from becoming true citizens of the 21st century.  More than that, you’re preventing them from becoming builders and dreamers.

Sure, I know.  It’s not on the test. Even though the nature of the real test is changing radically.

But teaching them Dave Gray’s Semigram (Flows, Forms and Fields) in the first week of school, how will they know that visual literacy is important?

4 comments

  1. Interesting.

    The simplest loom I’ve seen didn’t even have the bottom tension rod, just grooves in the top and bottom frame.

    I’m guessing the uppermost road serves as the rigid heddle.

  2. That was a blast. From idle chat to execution in a couple of hours.

    I now share shop space with a gymnastics studio, (the garage) so dust collection will be critical. Moving from 560 sq ft to a garage bay is…challenging.

    Come down for Loom 2.0.

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