Monday, July 9, 2007

Llamas Get Skittish Around Shears

On May 12th, Alyssa, Ravenna and I went to Fibrefest International 2007 convention, in peaceful Abbotsford, BC.

Besides learning that I’m allergic to llamas and /or alpacas (which were in abundance), I also had a chance to speak to people at two booths which directly relate to this art project.

The first booth was the Peace Arch Weavers and Spinners Guild. They let me try my hand at one of their looms. Quick lesson here: Weaving by hand is very, very time consuming! But it’s also fun. I talked to them about appropriate material for creating a painting canvas. They were all in agreement that flax (linen) would be the way to go for canvas material, as wool and other animal fur won’t hold the paint as well. The downside to weaving linen, however, is that it has very little stretch compared to other fibers. This means that it’s easier to make errors, creating an irregular canvas surface.

After I told them about my project, they thought idea of one person doing everything from scratch was unprecedented historically. They said that one thing that bound society together was the interdependence of people. In the past, one person would grow the flax, have another rett the flax, another spin it into thread and yarn, and someone else to weave it into canvas. Specializing makes for better products. More importantly to them, specializing helped foster community, as everyone depended on one another for survival. They thought that it would make more sense to barter for goods and services if I wanted to replicate how things used to be done. They have a very valid point, and although I am still planning on doing most of the steps on my own, I think it might be OK to get help from others (someone to man the bellows during smelting?), barter services or goods (I’ll have some nice apples and plums soon, and could barter them for other from scratch items). Besides, my family is already watering my flax for me. For what it’s worth, Dale Chihuly has a whole team of artists who work with him to create his vision: (wiki entry)
And Damien Hirst just hires people to do his art for him. OK, I think that’s going just a little too far.

The second booth I visited was Wild Rose Fibres
Colleen Hovey is the owner, and gave me an impromptu lesson on how to use a drop spindle, to spin fiber into thread. She sells a wide variety of fibres and is a dealer for Kromski Spinning Wheels, shipping throughout Canada and the United States. I was planning on buying some flax from her to learn how to spin fiber as a proof-of-concept for the flax that is growing at my parent’s house. But when I told her about my project, she donated 50 grams to the cause! So, if you are thinking about spinning your own yarn, please visit her website!

I’ll be giving an update on my spinning & weaving results in the coming months. Coming up next, Bamboo gathering. It worked for the Skipper & Gilligan, so why not me?

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