Banging on the Loom

This morning I posted a story on Cowbird about my grandmother Ines and her account (from her memoirs) of using a rag rug loom at the Farm. I entitled it “Banging on the Loom.” While she never uses the phrase in her account, it’s how I’ve always imagined her at that loom, banging on it LOUDLY and joyfully. I love this image (and her story) so much that I’m naming the interactive documentary for The Farm, “Banging on the Loom.”

In the introduction to my i-doc, I’m planning to craft my own story to put beside my grandmother’s about the significance of this phrase. My cowbird story from this morning was a first attempt at conveying that significance. I don’t think I quite succeeded.  I feel like something is missing. But, that’s okay. The process of spending time with my grandma’s account and reflecting deeply on it as I craft my own story about it is central to The Farm project.

Why do I like her account so much? I think I want to let this question persist without attempting to fully answer it now. But, I will offer one thought for today. My grandmother’s joyful (exuberant, physical, loud, playful) banging on the loom is, to me, the bold and persistent assertion of a spirited self who refuses to be silenced by the burdens of a difficult life.


This is a picture of a rag cutting bee at the Farm. Family/community women would gather together to prepare rags for the loom. My grandmother sits in front of the television. My great-grandmother Johanna is on her right.


As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I’m really enjoying Cowbird. Since I’m planning to use it, I wanted to get a feel for the community and how other people tell and share stories. One feature that I’ve been using to see different stories is Serendipity. It’s an icon located in the upper left corner of the home page. When you click on it, it takes you to a random story. Scott has a similar feature on his blog called Spin the Wheel (which is a WordPress plugin, random redirect).

I like this idea. I think it would be cool to have this tool in the database. Users could click on the icon to find a random photo, video, archival document, question, etc. What should I call it? Hmmm….

follow-up note: I’m still not sure what to call the random item generator but, since it will be in the “scraps of memory database” section, which is connected to the “banging on the loom” interactive documentary, I’m thinking the name should be loom/rag rug-related.

An App?

I’m not sure whether or not I want to develop an app for this project. Are they the best way to tell and share stories? To get people engaged with the project? I’m not convinced that an app is needed. While browsing through the Cowbird FAQ the other day, I came across their answer to the question: Do you have an app?

No. We think Apps are destined for obsolescence — they’ll be the CD-Roms of tomorrow. We believe in the open Web. That said, you’ll find that Cowbird works well on your smartphone.


I like this answer. And, I like how the site works on my phone. In a post a week ago I mentioned how my embedded story wasn’t responsive. It kept getting cut off on the phone. Not sure if that’s a problem with Cowbird or with my theme? For now, I’m not sure it matters; I like the idea of directing people to Cowbird.


Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 1.14.49 PMI’ve decided to use the really cool storytelling site Cowbird in my project. I had been thinking about using it for some time, but wasn’t sure. Then I joined it and published my first story. I love it! Such a supportive community. I’ve been posting digital stories on Vimeo for almost two years now (142 videos in all), and I’ve already received more encouragement in less than a week on Cowbird than I ever have on Vimeo. I still think Vimeo is great and I love using it, but Cowbird has built a better structure for creating community among everyday storytellers.

While I haven’t completely figured out how to use Cowbird for this project, I have a tentative plan:

1. To post story fragments about the farm while I design/develop my interactive documentary for the project. Maybe 1-2 per week? These fragments will help me as I work through the storytelling process and they’re a good way to let other people know about the project.

2. Create a collection* (The Farm) and encourage certain people (family members, friends) to share their own stories about the farm. Eventually, once the project is launched, I will actively open up the story sharing to anyone who wants to contribute.

*Still undecided. Should I use a collection or a project?