Monday, March 23, 2009

Time and Distance

About two years ago, I got an email from someone I did not know, asking me if I would be interested in traveling to a place I did not know, Tasmania, for a SpinIn in 2009. I said yes.

I knew no one in Tasmania, nor did I really know what the SpinIn was all about. But I said yes, knowing that spinners I have met from around the world are in many ways of like mind, and usually people I want to get to know.

What a difference time and distance make. Now I have been to Tasmania, I have met the people who invited me. I feel like I have friends halfway around the world and that Tasmania is another home:
with di and chris on the beach

Australia was wonderful, in many senses of the word. It is a wonder that a place can be so far from home, and yet feel so comfortable, so like home. The topography looks like home (well, like Northern California, which I call home):
Tree Orford March 2009

People were kind to us, friendly, and mostly speak English, although it is true we can say we are separated by a common language. There were times when neither my husband nor I could understand what was being said to us: whether it was the vernacular or the accent, we were confused. Despite any miscommunications, we felt like we came away from Bothwell with many friends, and we both hope we will meet up with them again.

Bothwell is a gem of a Highland town:
church bothwell

Many of the buildings are sandstone:
bothwell sandstone church

You can tell that the local economy is agriculturally based:
bothwell elders sign

And yet it is clearly grounded in the 21st century:
elm bothwell

This is the cafe, serving sun-dried tomato panini with lattes, cappuccinos and espressos, and WiFi connectivity.

The week after the SpinIn, there were workshops. Di McPherson did a workshop on mud cloth (Bogolanfini), and I did two workshops: one on Braids and Bands (kumihimo and cardweaving) followed by one on knotted pile.

Yes, I had fun, but it is more than that. The people in the classes became friends, well, I think they were already friends when I arrived. We all speak another common language, of fiber, and crafts in general: clay, woodworking, jewelry, glass. No matter what craft we practice, we understand each other.

I could not have felt more at home. We talked and wove, braided and chatted, had lunch every day in small groups or large, had tea in the afternoons, and, as we usually do in a workshop like this, we found common denominators, and strange and glowing differences. It was delightful.

It was also delightful weather: brisk, rainy and cold one day, windy and sunny the next. The only honest weatherman on the planet admitted that the winds could not be classified. They were neither westerly, northerly or uni-directional in any way: in the Highlands of Tasmania, even the winds can be confused.

But the air! is the cleanest air in the world. As it whips and whirls around, it is full of an energy and excitement, palpable, which translates to a population which is energetic itself, welcomes new ideas, reaches out and welcomes new people, and takes the time to set up this wonderful International SpinIn, and invite guests like Di, Nikone and me. I could not be more grateful.

Two people in the knotted pile workshop talked of weaving up a rug, perhaps in time for the *next* Bothwell SpinIn, in 2011. I challenged them to do so, and if they managed to finish their rugs, I would come back to see them on display at the next SpinIn, no matter what form the SpinIn might take: a similar full-on event, a smaller retreat held elsewhere, or a few people just gathering to spin in the park in Bothwell.

We left end of summer in Australia:
sunny botanic gardens sydney

And came home to this:
snow march 2009

What a difference time and distance can make!

The next SpinIn is a bit of time away yet, and the distance will always be there to overcome, but the time to wait and the distance to cross seem less significant now. I know where I am going, and some of the people I will see again.

Again. Funny that word. I never would have guessed this path twenty years ago. I so wonder what it will look like in another ten. Time, and distance, will tell.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

More Bothwell

The Bothwell International Highland SpinIn is held over three days: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the last weekend in February. The first day, there are opening speeches, dignitaries, and competitions.

Some of the competitions are held on site, and we watch teams of spinners and knitters, a shearer (a woman shearer, whose name I think was Elaine something-something, and who sheared a sheep live on stage with hand clippers in about 10 minutes!), thigh-spinning, felting and several other challenges.

The most notable and prestigious of the challenges is the International Longest-Thread competition. There were 128 entries from about 10 countries, with (sadly) the US well under-represented (ahem). There are categories for wheel spun and spindle spun, and with Abby's spindling influence in the US now, and her new book on spindle spinning coming out next Fall, I am betting we can encourage a few (thousand, several) spindle spinners to join in next round. No pressure.

The winners of the wheel spun challenge this year are all from the Netherlands, all from the same spinning group, and all were encouraged by a spinner in their group to enter. Jan Zanbelt spun 10 grams of wool to a length of over 1000 meters to place first. His compatriots Zita van de Meulen and Wim Kars placed second and third respectively.

Hand spindle winners were Flo Kinnear of Scotland, 1st, Sandra Johnson of Tasmania (yay!) 2nd, and Meg Crowther of England, 3rd.

Saturday and Sunday more of the public are present, and demonstrations, lectures, the buying of fiber, yarn and books, and general spinning among friends is the order of the day.

Di McPherson demonstrated natural dyeing all three days. Here she is unwrapping a cordata-dyed silk scarf:
Di demonstrating
(photo by Chris Cowles)

She lectured later in the day, with able assistance from Chanchal Foxsen:
Chanchal and Di
(photo by Chris Cowles)

I demonstrated knotted pile for the entire three days:
me demonstrating3
(photo by Chris Cowles)

ending up with this small piece as a memento of my trip to Australia, and especially to Tasmania:
pile demo piece

I also gave a small talk (most ably assisted and encouraged by Chanchal) on my work:
Chanchal and me
(photo by Chris Cowles)

I am sorry not to have gotten photos of Nikone Nanong from Laos, or actually any photos during the demonstrations and lectures, as you see these photos were taken by Chris Cowles, Di's partner. Nikone had a wonderful display of Laotian weaving and dyeing, and gave a lecture on handcraft revival in her country.

There were evening activities, dinners, a blessing of the fleece in one of the local churches, and, presented with aplomb and with much hilarity, skits:
Fire's gone out
(photo by Chris Cowles)

and even a wedding of Wool and Wheel:
wool and wheel2
(photo by Chris Cowles)

Puns abounded, and everyone let down their hair (or put on lots of hair!) for the evening's festivities.

More to come, next post, as the weekend was followed by a packed week of workshops and some wild weather, including *confused* winds.

Story at eleven.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Bothwell SpinIn 2009

Tasmania looks a lot like California. It's the beginning of Autumn here, the hills are golden grass and eucalyptus. The air is fresh, the weather is pleasant, the coffee and tea is good, the wine is better, and the company is the best.

We are staying here:
bothwell housing

My housemate is Di McPherson (on the right here); natural dyer, surface designer:

di mcpherson

Di did yeoman's duty demonstrating dyeing all weekend long. Her work is mostly on silk, using some indigo, and lots of exploration of local plants, especially the vast variety of gum trees available in Tasmania:

di mcpherson2

A very small, dedicated committee puts this event together every other year. Over 200 people attended, there were musicians, fashion shows, contests, spinning ongoing, various entertainments (some of which shall appear in a future post), vendors, food booths, sand sculptures, and an array of activities for all ages. For a committee of 9 people, that is a job and half to coordinate:

bothwell committee

There are exhibits of handspun knitting:

bothwell knitting3

bothwell knitting

bothwell knitting2


bothwell weaving

bothwell weaving2

bothwell james tapestry


bothwell felting

There were demonstrations of all kinds all weekend:
bothwell socks
From preparations for sock dyeing, to spinning, weaving, felting, and dyeing.

There is too much to tell in one post, and more photos to come. Today, Monday, is my day off to do some catch up, prepare for the workshops coming up this week, read the newspapers, do the laundry, and (obviously) sit around in an internet cafe. I am the luckiest of people, thanks to the committee who brought me here.