Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fiber For All

Hello Fiber Friends.

Last week I met the future of fiber art.  It was a subtle moment, but full of meaning.  There were 16 earnest young artists from the age of almost-six to thirteen.  The “Kids’ Art Camp” of the Senoia, Georgia Cultural Arts Committee took place in the red barn behind The Veranda, a local Bed and Breakfast.  The gracious owner of the inn, a former elementary school teacher, gave us the run of the barn.  We had an air conditioner and four fans and could barely breathe from the heat and humidity.

Day one was photography, day two was painting, day three was my day, and of course it was fiber.  Having taught fiber activities the two previous years that included scrap appliqué on felt and more appliqué on pillows, I felt it was time to step out into new territory.  I didn’t want to hear those horrible little words, “Didn’t we do this last year?”

After wracking my brain for a week or so, I hit upon a brilliant plan: weaving!  Now you need to know that I am NOT a weaver.  I took a few courses from museums and craft teachers in the late 60s (when I was a baby), but they didn’t stick.  I was allergic to raw wool, the natural dyes faded, and it was waaay to slow for me.  That was before I discovered Procion dyes and quilting.  So I was not coming from a place of strength.  But it was getting close to class time and I couldn’t think of anything else.

I turned to my stash of recycled cardboard. Then I began to search the basement for boxes to cut up.  After snipping about a million evenly spaced notches at the top and bottom of each piece, we had looms. 

Discount-store yarn provided the warp and I pulled out the few pieces of solid-color commercial fabric I had acquired over the years. (I am a hand-dyed or printed person.)  Half-inch strips ripped from every hunk of fabric would provide the weft, and they were taped to the end of popsicle sticks as shuttles.  I decided to embrace the wabi-sabi of knots connecting all those strips of fabric.

The kids and I discussed the warp and the weft and woven versus knitted fabric.  After a little training, the volunteers helped to warp the looms. The children learned to rip fabric with abandon and weave with their makeshift shuttles. 

Now here’s where the moment comes in…. I realized that after an hour and a half, all 16 kids were sitting still and weaving.  No one was bolting for the door or gazing at the ceiling, no one whined that they were bored, and all the questions were technical ones about their work.  We actually had to make them stop to go to lunch.

Maybe they liked the destructive quality of fabric ripping; maybe they liked the symmetry of the weave, but their complete focus on fiber was undeniable.  Sixteen little lights of the future will probably never look at a piece of woven cloth in the same way again.  I don’t know what you would call that, but I call it a small miracle …. and the future of Fiber Art.

Claudia Wood

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