History can look quaint, especially when technology is involved. An iPod of today has more storage capacity than monster computer rooms of the 1970s. But as recently as 1992, when I met Jhane . . .
At Syracuse University in the 1980s I experimented with ways of embodying all kinds of pattern design rules into software as a creative tool using Mathematics. In 1989 I saw an article about how Jhane used computers to help with fashion design so I brashly wrote to her, claiming that I had ways of infusing the computer software with some creativity. Nada. Then I learned how a loom worked and wrote a program that simulated the loom elements – warp, weft, threading, tieup, peg plan etc. In 1991 I started a little company to launch this product and take the weaving world by storm. That didn’t happen, exactly, but in 1992 we set up a booth at Convergence in Washington where Jhane was the keynote speaker. Jhane came to our booth and bought our little $225 product called WeaveMaker, even though it was a pre-Windows PC program, and Jhane was already into Mac computers. Jhane said she had a déjà vu feeling about something, and it was because she remembered my 1989 letter.
It was a technological misfit because of hardware, but much else was wrong, too. My WeaveMaker had fixed warp and weft sizes and harnesses, determined by my screen resolution. I didn’t know anything about floats or dozens of other weaving essentials. But the combination of my naiveté and Math ideas produced some design elements, particularly warp threadings and color schemes, that were new and appealing to Jhane. Just two months later, Jhane invited me to her studio to show me some fabrics made from WeaveMaker. They were gorgeous, as you would expect from Jhane, but what persistence and insight this lady showed to get good fabrics out of what I provided her! Silk purses from sows’ ears were nothing compared to this!
Thanks to Jhane, I was able to satisfy myself that my idea had merit and could indeed enhance designer creativity. But there was work to be done. Within a few months, I was able to arouse the interest of a colleague at Syracuse University, Dana Cartwright. Dana had the skills to create an all-new version of WeaveMaker that ran on the Mac and incorporated the controls required for serious design work.
The word is synergy. The example is classic. Jhane teaching Dana and me about fashion, weaving, yarns, colors, and design while describing the tools she needed. Dana’s implementation expertise applied to making those tools easy to use and productive. My proclivity for converting word descriptions of design ideas, fabric examples, and even casual observation of elements of Jhane’s style to computer algorithms with extensive application of Mathematics. As a bonus, I was occasionally able to tap the intrinsic order of Mathematical objects to introduce new design ideas that blossomed under Jhane’s magic touch. Yes, the whole was so much greater than the sum of its parts!
This has been going on for seventeen years. That’s a lot of History, a lot of design, a lot of what is uniquely Jhane.
— Bill Jones, Designer Software, Syracuse, NY