Thursday, 25 August 2011


I'm self taught, although I've taken some workshops. Weaving is like that. A little bit can go a long way. I've collected examples for years fascinated by the combinations, the effort and simple (or complex) beauty of handmade.
Walking through the fields on the farm I got acquainted with Blackberry. Occasional times in the forest a group of branches along a path would encourage me to wind them together creating an arch or holding back the encroaching vines.
After one workshop I learned how and when to harvest tule. With a friend and a canoe I pulled the reed from Quamichan Lake. I planned to make and create hats. Unfortunately after drying it in the barn a few years passed and no weaving took place. The rats got into it and into the compost it went.
On the way to Pachena 2 years ago, the cedar tree I harvested for a tipi pole invited me to save the branches along with the bark and as I sat near the beach, I felt her grandmother presence behind me guiding my hands as I attempted to assemble a cradle.
That was inspiring, all the books I've read never gave me anything like that. I revisited some of those books and got more inspired as I began to get the context of their lessons. All around me I see potential materials for creating.
I took a Backstrap weaving course in Vancouver from a master weaver from Peru, the basics. Here she is with an example of her work.
My journey "of a lifetime" begins with 3 months in New Zealand.
Phormium or New Zealand Flax has a tough fiberous leaf and it is everwhere.
I get first hand experience weaving it at the Permaculture Design Course from Hiroko. There are books in the museums...workshops... I get how important culturally weaving is for maintaining connection to ancestors, the day to day, creative expression, determination, resilience and imagination.
Elke goes off to Africa to Tanzania.
I'm on my way to see her.
Driving out of Arusha passing displays of round woven mats and baskets hanging in trees, at the side of the road in what seems to be the middle of nowhere. Sometimes a woman or a group sitting close by, working on more. I want to stop and check them out thinking "how will I get that one home?" And Damn! Can't we stop so I can take pictures?
In Dar Es Salaam we visit a museum where many examples of traditional designs are displayed, in this case a cover for food to keep the flies off. Later passing a group of basket vendors we stop and admire the variety, sizes, shapes and colours.
At the Shamba a fellow shows up with a hat that folds into itself. He doesn't speak English, I don't speak Swahili. Somehow it gets communicated and I learn the basket maker is away at the moment...
On Zanzibar I find a book that explains the process, some cultural references and pages of patterns for plaiting date palm. We visit a Spice farm and one fellow spends the entire time plaiting up a; frog, bracelet, hat, headband, turtle, crown, necktie and wallet to carry it all in,all out of Date Palm
Is this obsessive compulsive?
Luckily I am able to convince Elke to ship home her gifts in a coiled basket, she already has some plaited shopping bags. I restrain myself to one, for Elke in the market in Stone Town.
Back home I take
more workshops, practice with Maria Curtis and more collecting materials, including books. I take Maria onto the lake for tule, the neighbour at the house sit, cuts some trees and I find some long pieces of holly, I form them into loops and wands.
Another cedar tree falls to the saw, again I collect the branches strip the bark and wind it up. I soak it and with guidance begin to create another basket.
A few mistakes some innovation and creative license. I learn and recall circles I've created playing with branches. I feel resilience, resistance, temper and limits. Yes, I broke a few branches.
I read about willow, the quintessential weaving plant, check out the addresses for weaving schools and museums in Europe ...

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