Saturday, 23 October 2010

Enjoying the Journey

Natural Dyeing

Enjoying the Journey – The Slow Cloth movement.  Inspired by Elaine Lipson set me on the journey I am travelling at the moment. 

I am finding that the sense of community I am involved with incredibly inspiring and eye-opening.  Whilst spinning and weaving I am spending quiet time with myself, enabling me to reclaim the mental space to contemplate a lot of things, without feeling guilty of having idyll hands. Some of the things I am pondering over are earth shattering, others – well it is important what colour you are going to dye next for a project !!

It is a skill that has to be developed over time.  I have been undertaking it now for 4/5ths of my lifetime (20 years spinning, 40 years with textiles in general – inspired by Crossroads would you believe – and Amy Turtle). 

My emphasis is on making something which will last and is well made.  That is why I shy away from Koolaid and some other methods of dyeing which have not stood the test of time, when I am dyeing for commission or a large project.   I have nothing against them at all and they are brilliant for experimentation, but as I am not confident they are bomb proof, I would rather not take the risk.

I went on an art trail recently and watched someone buy a beautiful felted bag for a not inconsiderate sum, which as she joyfully started using it, rubbed against her cream (designer) coat, and before she got to the door, the red from the felt had travelled quite considerably across the fabric. 

I tackled the lady who sold it, in a kindly manner, to be told, that she had followed the instructions – (aah those instructions again…)  I was curious then as to why the problem was occurring, and talked through with her the methodology she had used, and she was happy to share with me her considerable expertise.  She had downloaded a leaflet from the internet (courses are a waste of time you know…), and it became apparent she had not set the dye with heat helping the acid to activate and become permanent, only used it as a stain, because she had not realised that she had to (I knew the leaflet, there were two pages, she had only printed off one…).

The penny dropped with the lady as we were concluding our conversation, but the she made no effort to catch up with the person who was now in the car park looking at her coat perplexed.  At this stage the good name of craftsmanship and professionalism could be salvaged.  Instead, the moment was lost and the far from happy woman made her way back into the building as I made a hasty exit.     This affects all craft reputations, and why it is important to me to do things properly, and to get to the bottom of why things go wrong !!

Community – being my blogging and workshops.  The feedback I have had from the last gre have been incredible and I am so pleased that my ethos of facilitation and sharing has been so well received in these formats.  It was obvious that I just needed to go back to the drawing board.  I was beginning to think that perhaps I was taking a wrong turn here, but it seems not.   As for my blogging friends – who have quite overawed me with their knowledge and generosity of sharing.  I love playing and so it seems do others. 

This is also why I teach/guide/lead/facilitate – I want to honour the lineage, but not hold it static and revere it in such a way that it doesn’t communicate with today’s audiences and participants.  This is why I am very uncomfortable with some of the museum set ups which physically and metaphorically put these crafts behind glass.   They are happy to get involved with Key Stage whatever because it ticks the funding boxes, but where does a child or young adult go to find out more, or get involved?  They can’t at school, and there are little in the way of apprenticeships, so it is relegated to hobby level.  That derogatory word again.. and the funding cuts are only going to make this worse. 

Materials – I am working very hard now to think about my use of materials, hence the investigations recently into dyeing and respecting their source.  I don’t think I can go wrong with wool, but I can if I have to import it from halfway around the globe to keep the price down, and I have concerns about the production of superwash that I have to use sometimes. 

Expression – well my textiles and art are certainly a way of obtaining self-expression and the Faroese shawl that I am currently wearing, whilst not being the most fashionable of items, is very warm and comforting to my soul. 

So all in all – I am enjoying my journey, and this is generated from joy in the process.  As Elaine says in her piece the journey matters as much as the destination !!

I owe a lot to Elaine, I haven’t made this stuff up, Slow Cloth is now a recognised movement and was featured in The Wheel the magazine produced by Ashfords.   I would commend it to all..

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So what am I up to today?

Natural Dyeing

These are the first of the tinctoria natural dyes from the current Spring Collection.  Alum Mordanted.  Rain has stopped photography, but have a lovely couple of yellow ones as well now.  I am going to sadden and will then photograph.

Photograph at the tope of the page is a picture painted by Damien Jeffery.  He produced a beautiful mural on a local school, and is displaying his work at Bedminster Arts and Music Festival.  Sounds like good fun.  

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