Documenting Your Design Process For Promotion

by Barbara Burns on January 26, 2018

Barbara Burns

My Story

I fell into it accidentally. I thought documenting my process would be a good idea. Maybe I heard or read that it was a good thing to do, I really don’t remember. I’ve been saving my old tapestry cartoons and everything that went into the design process since my first tapestry. I have a file drawer full of manilla envelopes stuffed with all manner of papers from each design. Even the ones I decided not to weave. You never know.

Last year I took a class in making and editing videos. Then I bought a new camera that takes great photos and especially great videos. I had a good time recording the process of designing,  dyeing and weaving for my corset project. I made three videos, each documenting different aspects of the process along with lots of photos. The natural next step was to post each video as I made them onto my website. Now that I’m almost finished with the corset I have created a page with my collection of documentation.

Documenting your process is different from documenting your work. Many of us do that already. We have photos of each of our tapestries which we use to enter into shows and put on our websites for example. Documenting your process is recording the steps you go through to create a design and a tapestry. It is a chronicle of the raw materials that leads to your finished work.

I’ve learned that documenting your process has several benefits. It can help you reflect on your process and think objectively about what you’ve created. It allows you to contemplate the direction you’re headed in and to assess the implications of current, as well as future work. Documenting your process is a great way to stay in touch with your commitment and inspirations for wanting to be an artist, and with what art-making ultimately means to you.

On a larger scale your work will be more likely to be taken seriously by museums, galleries and collectors if that’s the direction you’re striving to go in. It’s also important for someone doing research about an artist to have a wealth of documentation to draw upon. Like I said, you never know.

Documentation is also great for use in social media. My weaving can be so slow and intermittent that for me, it’s ridiculous, if not impossible to post my daily or weekly progress, not to mention a bit boring. Think about what you like to look at, that’s likely what people who follow you want to see. I love to see how another artist/weaver’s process develops. It also gives more meaning to a work when you can see the development of an idea and sometimes sparks an idea in me to work on.

There are many ways to document your process. It can be as simple as a series of photographs with your phone or camera and put it in a folder, be it digital or manila. If you want to be a little more high tech the iPhone 8 has a time lapse app that captures lots of photos over a period of time, and then assembles them together to create seamless video footage that appears sped up. It’s the opposite of slow motion videos where time appears to be moving more slowly.  You can take short videos and upload them directly to Facebook,  Instagram or Vimeo for instance and link them to your webpage if you have one. Or start your own blog and use it as an art journal that you share with others. All this helps to develop a following of people interested in what you are doing and perhaps buying your work if that’s what you want to do. It also builds community.

When you’re ready to begin the documentation process, be sure to consider the viewer. Don’t get bogged down in personal details. You can make this process a daily or weekly habit when you set a time to document your process. Here is an example of how I have used documentation on my website. Here are two sites that can help you on your way:  Documentation for Artists  and Suggestions For Explaining Your Art to Viewers

If you’re already documenting or just starting please share it with us in the comments section.

THE BLOG TOUR

January 22nd: Molly Elkind: Collage as research

January 23rd: Ellen Bruxvoort – Vlog on Instagram about her design process

January 24th: Tommye Scanlin: Literature as inspiration

January 25th: Debbie Herd: Digital design tools

January 26th: Barbara Burns: Documenting your design for promotion

WIN ONE OF 26 PRIZES!

Follow all the stops on the blog tour to increase your chance to win one of the following

prizes: $50 towards a Mirrix Loom, a Hokett loom kit, a Hokett Tiny Turned Beater, a project

bag from Halcyon Yarn containing rosewood bobbins and a voucher for their online shop, a

voucher for Weaversbazaar’s online shop, a free entry into ATA’s 12th international,

unjuried, small format exhibition and a free one-year membership to ATA.

Here’s how to enter to win. Comment on this blog post then go here to let ATA know that you

commented. The more blog posts you comment on the more chances you have to win so be

sure to follow along. Ellen Bruxvoort is doing an Instagram video for the tour and if you

respond with a photo or video on social media describing how you design tapestry you get

five extra entries in the giveaway. Let the sharing begin!

To win another 5 entries into the giveaway ​enter to exhibit in The Biggest Little Tapestries

in the World, ATA’s 12th international, unjuried small format exhibition, and then let us know

that you entered by going here by Sunday January 28th. For this exhibition all entries get

accepted to exhibit as long as your tapestry fits within the size requirements!

The Biggest Little Tapestries in the World, ATA’s 12th international, unjuried small format

exhibition is open to all weavers. We invite entries which fit more traditional definitions of

tapestry, and also entries that expand upon the core principles of the medium as they

explore new techniques and processes. Multimedia work is welcome. The Biggest Little

Tapestries in the World! will hang July 2018 at the Northwest Reno Public Library, 2325

Robb Drive. The entry form (intent to participate) is due February 15, 2018. The tapestry,

and an image of the tapestry is not due until March 31, 2018. ​Find more details here

ABOUT AMERICAN TAPESTRY ALLIANCE

The American Tapestry Alliance is a nonprofit organization that provides programming for

tapestry weavers around the world, including exhibitions (like Tapestry Unlimited), both

juried and unjuried, in museums, art centres and online, along with exhibition catalogues.

They offer workshops, lectures, one-on-one mentoring and online educational articles as

well as awards, including scholarships, membership grants, an international student award,

and the Award of Excellence. They also put out a quarterly newsletter, monthly eNews &

eKudos, an annual digest. Members benefit from personalized artists pages on the ATA

website, online exhibitions, educational articles, access to scholarships and more.

You’re invited to exhibit! The Biggest Little Tapestries in the World, ATA’s 12th international,

unjuried small format exhibition is open to all weavers. We invite entries which fit more

traditional definitions of tapestry, and also entries that expand upon the core principles of the

medium as they explore new techniques and processes. Multimedia work is welcome. The

Biggest Little Tapestries in the World! will hang at the Northwest Reno Public Library, 2325

Robb Drive. The entry form (intent to participate) is due February 15, 2018. The tapestry,

and an image of the tapestry is not due until March 31, 2018. ​Find more details here

70 comments

  1. Alison Daykin says:

    Thank you for this blog post, it’s a different way to document your process, something I’ve done for my fabric weaving but not in this way.

    1. Brenda says:

      Very good post. I’ve only ever documented my idea and inspiration processes but never followed it all the way through.

  2. I only sort of document my work online, in that there are progress pictures of my work on instagram interspersed between lots of pictures of pets and scenery. I do have a folder on a physical shelf at home for my completed cartoons and assorted notes I might have made though. I’ve opened up those links you provided in new tabs, and I’m off to read them now. Thank you for the resources!

    1. Barbara Burns says:

      Sarah, I’m glad you found this useful.

  3. Katie Hickey says:

    Barbara, I was just looking at the large (for me) tapestry I began in the new year, with it’s 3 inches or so of weaving, and wondering if I should start taking photos to post on Instagram as this piece progresses. After reading your thoughts about this, I just might! Thanks for the post.

    1. Barbara Burns says:

      That’s a great idea Katie. I find when I share what I’m doing with people it keeps me on point and honest.

  4. Thanks for your insights about documenting process. I’ve enjoyed watching your corset progress and I think it’s so helpful to see what others do along the way from idea to finished object.

  5. Linda Watson says:

    I document my process mostly for myself but also to share with friends on Instagram. Mostly, though, I’m curious about what I do each day in the studio, since at times it feels as if I do very little. Documenting it, either photos of the weaving or keeping an informal time log reminds me that, in fact, I do work in there almost daily, even if it’s not weaving, but sketching, painting or research.

  6. KateP says:

    Thank you for sharing reasons for documenting one’s process as well as the product. I’ve taken the occasional in-progress pic of my knitting, but not so much my weaving. I’m going to be re-thinking that!

  7. Martha M. says:

    Good information. I document my progress with photos, but I never thought of using video.

    1. Barbara Burns says:

      I enjoy using video to document. It’s more engaging for people. It is time consuming and if you want to edit too there is a steep learning curve with the software. I was fortunate to be able to take a 30 hour adult ed course in iMovie last spring. You don’t have too be so formal about it though. Just use your smart phone if you have one and use the editing there. It’s limited but so what. It’s still fun and informative.

  8. Carolyn says:

    Thank you for addition ways to document my weaving. My first teacher spent time on this subject and I try do do that.

  9. Kate Colwell says:

    I love your work and am interested in your process. A million years ago there an editorial in Handwoven Magazine about the “Good Weaver” who recorded all the steps and details and kept samples of the yarn etc. About once every 5 years I think about being a good weaver and then decide I am never going to get there. I already accumulate too much stuff and am just grateful that my photos are now digital so I don’t need to move into a new place just to store all the documentation. I can see where this might be useful to a professional artist if you have room for it all.

    1. Barbara Burns says:

      Kate, like you said go ing digital takes up no space at all. i could have forgone the manila folders and just photographed everything in them. I’m not that forward thinking though. I like the original documents.

  10. Agnes says:

    I’m following a textile art course and found that when I showed my finished assignments and talked about the process that my fellow students sometimes didn’t understand what I meant. So I got in a habit of taking some pictures along the way. Now this is rather haphazardly at the moment. And I think it’s a very good idea to do this more structurally. Thank you for this blog and the links, it will be good to make documenting a structural part of my working process. And it will definitely help with those moments that I look at older work and wonder “How did I do that????”.

    1. Barbara Burns says:

      Agnes another useful aspect is when I look back at old designs I chose not to weave when I created them. I just took one out recently and I may just weave it now.

  11. Kathy popoff says:

    I’ve been working on a huge tapestry project that I expect to finish in 2019. You’re blog post is another piece of the puzzle for my piece. I’ve been taking notes on it, but this week I will now decide on exactly how I want to document what I have been and will be doing on it. Thank you!

    1. Barbara Burns says:

      You’re welcome Kathy. So glad this has helped you.

  12. Cooky Schock says:

    Thank you! I never thought about a video approach to documenting a project.

  13. Patti Kirch says:

    Thank you Barbara for reinforcing the importance of documenting works,your process and ideas.
    Wonderful blog post stop.

  14. Cate Markey says:

    This makes such good sense! I have documented my handweaving work for decades, but less so the artistic or other process. As a newish tapestry weaver, it makes sense to chronicle the process, the idea, vision, photo to its evolution to a finished work (or not). I am going to start paying more attention to this as I am certain it will fuel my creativity in some yet unknown ways. Thank you for this.

  15. Sue Schwarz says:

    Thank you for this. I REALLY need to be more diligent about documentation of my work

  16. Victoria Stone says:

    Great information about your document process. I think this is very important
    especially to the non-weaver to explain exactly what we do. I once curated a tapestry
    show where the artist had step by step photos of her process…the comments were
    amazing; a wonderful teaching tool.
    Many thanks.

  17. Ellen Ramsey says:

    Thank you Barbara. I am inspired to share more of my process. I especially appreciate the link to GYST! What a great website! I am still a little squeamish when it comes to self promotion. These tools may help me get over it, maybe. One thing I might add – a long time ago I had a piece in ATB6 (you did too!) that was hosted at a museum that was local to me. I was asked to talk to the docents who give public educational tours about tapestry and about my own process as an example. I had some documentation, but not like I should have – and they wanted me to leave stuff they could show people. yikes. Maybe we should ask ourselves what kind of documentation you would want if you knew you had to give a lecture about every tapestry after the fact. I now document very thoroughly, but I haven’t shared much. I am just starting to use social media and I hope to have a website soon. I’m not sure I could stomach watching a video of myself just yet! Baby steps….

  18. Linda Rhynard says:

    Barbara, thought provoking. Documentation is not something that I thought to do when I first started weaving. Now I wish I had pics of work that have been given away or sold. I now at least have them captured digitally now I need to get the discipline to get them printed and journaled. Thank you for capturing your thoughts and sharing them with us.
    Linda R

  19. Larisa Zarzhitskaya says:

    Thank you for sharing! I always criticize myself for collecting and keeping everything, but now I may just start calling this habit “documenting my work.”

  20. Carol A Rodi says:

    Barbara, thank you for your post and the links. I tend to photograph the beginning of a work and the finished piece, both to share my process and for my own record of what I am doing. But my documentation needs improvement. It is haphazard with posts onto Facebook and Instagram. I would like to, organize with a designated place to post and store. I always find it so interesting to see the process of another as well. There is so much to be learned from one another. I have enjoyed your chronicling of your process in the corset project. We are indeed very fortunate to have access to the technology we can use today.

  21. Lori Weslo-Walker says:

    I realize now that I really need to start documenting my work. Will try video. Think it will help viewers understand the process and realize all the work and thought process that goes into tapestry.

  22. Stephanie Van Housen says:

    Thanks for sharing. Originally I began taking photos of my weaving so I could remember what I did at the start of the piece and to look at through a filter. Then I started posting photos on social media and friends seem to really like seeing the process. Digital makes it all so easy!

  23. Marlena Rogers says:

    Barbara, thanks for a very interesting article on a topic that’s fairly new for me. As a relative newcomer to the art of tapestry weaving I have not yet started documenting my design process, and you certainly provided me with food for though and some inspiration to get going.

    1. Barbara Burns says:

      Marlena,
      As a beginner you are in a great position. If you begin documenting your process now you can develop a comprehensive collection from the beginning. In the future you will be able to go back over your documentation and see your progress and history. It can be useful to see.

  24. Mavis Adam says:

    Thank you for a great article. I enjoy seeing the process of design and weaving that others post online. I have especially enjoyed watching your corset creation. I have been weaving for a short time and am mostly self taught. The information I find online and in books are invaluable. Tapestry weaving is a slow process and there is much to learn. You have inspired me to better document my weaving process as I continue on my learning journey.

  25. Sue McDowell says:

    Thank you, Barbara! I’ve documented the work I do in another medium, but just started with tapestry and have only bern capturing the basics (planned design, fibr specs, etc.). Your blog post and the comments are a great reminder that I need to be more aware of ddocumenting the process. It will be helpful, I know, to have material to look baxk on. And I agree….you never know!

  26. Regina Dale says:

    Thank you for sharing more of your experience and knowledge in another wonderful blog. I never thought to document my process until I participated in the ATA mentoring program and was required to submit reports. I learned the value in documenting as well as the many benefits of my membership in ATA. Maybe I should try the video process to add to my documenting process.

  27. Beth Emmott says:

    I do document my work process, but not to this extent. I really like the purposes you laid out. I put an image or so on social media but rather hit or miss. Thank you for this – It will really help me up my game!

  28. Nancy Nordquist says:

    Thank you for this interesting post, Barbara. I enjoy reading about other people’s process and thinking about my own, but I hadn’t thought about being systematic about the process before. I think I’ll start now with my current piece. Thanks for the inspiration.

  29. I decided a few years ago not to sell my work for the time being. That will probably change if I start spending more time making smaller pieces or books. Blogging, posting on Facebook and Instagram serves a different and rewarding purpose for me. I’ve not only connected with weavers all over the world, but I’ve gotten the emotional and artistic support that I need for this time of my life. If I didn’t share my work on social media, I would be quite a lonely artist. I used to keep notebooks but I am far more likely to document my work through a camera.

  30. Dorothy Thursby says:

    Thank you for sharing your process. I can see how keeping records could be reflective and even help when starting new weavings. Something to consider as I build my practice. Thank you.

  31. Bridget says:

    Thank you for sharing your ideas! I need to document my work/process using more than just photos. Thanks!

  32. Lu Ross says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your ideas! I do some documentation, but I always like hearing more ideas.

  33. Martha E Lightcap says:

    Barbara – All these blog posts have been very valuable for many of us beginning and intermediate weavers. It’s good to get these habits established early on so as not to forget that one moment of anguish that you solved in the middle of the night and have no record. Not to mention the process for future work and sharing.

    Thanks
    Martha Lightcap

  34. Julia Rapinoe says:

    Thank you for your thoughts on this subject. I have always kept sketches and notes but didn’t take progress photos until the last few years. I love hearing about other artist’s processes so your blog reminds me to be more thoughtful about recording and sharing mine.

  35. Barbara Burns says:

    Thank you everyone for your kind words. I’m so glad to hear that this post is useful to many of you.

  36. Ruth J. Rowell says:

    What absolutely excellent information and advice. I have loved watching your corset project come to life – and now you’ve shown the rest of us how we can document our own project results. Thank you so much!

  37. Laura says:

    Yes, documentation is important–I’ve been sorry sometimes that I don’t have/can’t find/didn’t take any notes! Acquiring an iPad has helped a lot to document stages of some of my newer things. Next step is organizing the photos better.

  38. Bonnie Klatt says:

    Very informative and helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  39. Louise Abbott says:

    Barbara, thank you for your excellent discussion of documenting and self promotion. Documenting I do to a degree, but self promotion I have not done. Time for a change. Many thanks. Louise

  40. Peg McCollough says:

    I have only been documenting so I can remember what I did . Many new possibilities.

  41. Erin Riggs says:

    Great advice on documenting and promoting. It’s hsrd to do

  42. Bonni Opthof says:

    Thanks for the inspiration Barbara! I take notes and photos along the process, so I can remember how I did certain steps, but then I just get busy weaving and leave big parts out… I will now try to do better!

  43. RW says:

    Thank you for the blog and links.

  44. Julia Weaver says:

    This is an extremely helpful resource for documenting. I love the idea of it being a helpful tool for reflection! peace & gratitude, Julia Weaver

  45. Carolyn Coates says:

    Thanks, Barbara, I’ve always liked the idea of documenting the process and/or inspiration of a work but am terrible on the follow through. I hope to take this as impetus to get started.

  46. Thanks for discussing how you document. I participated in tour de fleece in July with spindles & found it helpful and fun to write down (on paper, later on my Ravelry handspun project page) about which fiber & which spindle I used… I also have done some other spin alongs and wrote down yardage. I plan on using some of these yarns for knitting, and some for weaving tapestries… hopefully my notes will help tell which methods of spinning, washing, etc., make for more successful tapestries… or perhaps better for other things…

  47. Heather Myers says:

    Very interesting and thought provoking, thanks.

  48. Ann Davies says:

    Barbara:
    Great ideas about documenting the process. I really liked the idea of time lapse photos of the process. It is something I can build on. Great blog post! Thanks

  49. Gloria Ross says:

    Thanks for the great ideas and resources. I am the worst documenter but I would like to do a better job. You gave me direction.

  50. Mary Severine says:

    I have been documenting my work all along in some of the ways you mention. Originally I did it because I gave all my work away. Now I do it to mark the time I spend as a maker for people who wonder what I do with all my time in retirement, Ha! And I confess that the occasional pat-on-the-back is nice as well. Starting to get more serious about my work these days, I look back and learn. Thanks for this post!
    Mary

  51. Mary says:

    Barbara,
    Thank you for the great ideas for documenting our fiber art work. I also enjoyed the accompanying interviews! Documenting and promoting our work is so important, but alas doesn’t happen easily for many of us!

    Mary Mason Banks

  52. Luanne McCollum says:

    Thank you for sharing your process. Documenting is something I always promise myself I will do and never get a ’round-tuit’. Also the links were brilliant thanks so much. Now I have so much to think about.

  53. Joan says:

    I’m afraid the documents I save are mysterious bits of paper, scribbles and doodles. I have good intentions, but fail to follow up.

  54. Ashley says:

    I have been meaning to do a time lapse of one of my large pieces for sometime now, this is re-inspiring me to set it up and start documenting creating! Thank you!

  55. Nan says:

    I’ve just started my tapestry journey and have been photographing the various steps of my work. Looking at the photos sometimes brings attention to what I didn’t see in the actual piece! Your corset project is fascinating! Thank you for your posts.

  56. Kiki says:

    Thank you for sharing. I keep a diary of process, progress and thinking for each tapestry, but I only considered it of use and interest to me as a learning tool. Now I see additional possibilities.

  57. Annette says:

    This is such a great suggestion- for many artists, myself included, self-promotion is the hardest part of it all. This is a way of doing it that makes sense. Thanks!

  58. Janette Gross says:

    Thank you for this post. I do take photos and keep sketches and notes and I try to keep them all in one place, but somehow that never happens! Since it’s just for me, it’s usually OK. But when I’m asked for more detail, it’s a scramble. I really have enjoyed watching your corset process. And I love the little devil especially now that I know where he comes from.

  59. Jeanine ertl says:

    What a wonderfully informative article! I have more recently begun documenting my processes…but mostly haphazardly, not in a more formal, comprehensive manner. I really appreciate your suggestion that one can learn a lot just by revisiting one’s own process if well documented. Thank you so much!

  60. DebbyG says:

    This was a wonderful post. Thank you! I have a website and blog where I document my fiber arts projects – weaving, spinning, dyeing. You gave me a fresh perspective and inspiration on how to present the process. florafiber.live/blog

  61. Rita Duval says:

    As a master handweaver, and a naturally organizedperson, my mother documented every piece in detail. This includedsamples , yarns, etc. When she passed away, we gifted this to her Guild. Somehow, I’ve never felt the need for this in my tapestry. 2018 New Year goal! Thanks Barbara.

  62. Deb Berkebile says:

    Great process ideas. Since I am new to weaving this will give me some inspiration on how to start!

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