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From where I sit at my loom with a view…..

my world has changed colour almost overnight!

I am once again stuck at home with not even a glass of wine to lighten the mood! But what can we do? I guess that because I’m a ” glass half full” (even if the bottle is empty and cannot be refilled at the moment) kind of person I am trying to put the time to good use. The fact that I don’t have an income worth mentioning right now is another subject altogether, but what I do have is food on the table and a roof over my head in the piece of paradise I am blessed enough to call home.

The past few days have seen Tropical cyclone Eloise ravage the Lowveld and while many areas are now involved in mopping up operations, we were spared the brunt of the storm and have received wonderful soaking rains, resulting in an explosion of colour as the Purple Fruited cluster leaf trees have suddenly fruited in the most spectacular way I have ever seen. The Raisin bushes are all budding and will soon be covered in little yellow flowers to be followed by their little yellow berries, and the ubiquitous Marula’s are hanging heavy with fruit.

Small creatures abound and we have been visited by all manner of these – including another dreaded squirrel in the house. from tiny little tortoises to elegant little Sand Snakes in the flower pots there is plenty to look at and wonder about after good rain in the lowveld!

With so much to fascinate and restless legs that regularly take me out for long walks, it is not always easy to concentrate on the nitty gritty of my daily working life, but it has to be done – big sigh!

One of the things that I find I am really missing during this time is the stimulation of teaching workshops – yes I know you’ve all heard this before, because I keep on going on about it. This has led to me starting to put a lot of my teaching down on paper, and I am even experimenting with putting some of my processes on to video. None of this is my natural habitat, and those of you who have taken a workshop with me will know that there are seldom printed notes to follow and I tend to teach ” off the top of my head”, adjusting my approach to suit my students and the pace at which they are working.

The past couple of weeks have seen me trying to make the process of warping a harness loom ( for this term read four shaft, or eight shaft etc) accessible to people who are not able to attend a workshop. I started by writing down what I though was a simple instruction, and the more I wrote, the more I found that there is, in actual fact, no such thing as a simple instruction. Likewise, when it comes to putting it all into video format – there is so much that needs to be said an demonstrated. What i am finding most difficult however, is to try and think through the process with the mind of a beginner.

For me, putting up a warp is a familiar process, which is a routine part of my weaving life. To break it down and explain what I am doing without being able to demonstrate in person is soooo difficult! In ‘real life’ my hands can show what I leave out in words, and the demonstration and the verbal instruction work hand in hand, each piece of the act filling in the bits that the other one leaves out.

This is a tremendous challenge for me, but I have to admit to the fact that I am really enjoying it. The Patreon page was the start, and it feels as though this is a logical progression from there. The ultimate plan is to have a series of techniques available as video/workbook courses. It is my hope that this will allow for a whole lot more flexibility when it comes to teaching what my students would like to learn, and instead of being locked into learning a specific technique on a specific weekend at a workshop, there will be a variety on offer and a freedom of choice.

This doesn’t mean that there won’t be any more workshops, and I promise that as soon as life settles back down into some semblance of what we used to call normal, the notices will go out……., but perhaps what is happening here is that I’m developing a second string to my bow.

Most people of my age are looking forward to retiring – but why should I? After all there is still a beautiful view from my loom!

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On the Road again.

London comes to Clarens. Beautiful Merino split shawl in Karoo Moon Yarn.[/caption]   As always, the long drive became a time for thought and contemplation, and also as always, I wondered about the people I would meet, and those who were booked to attend my workshops. I love the teaching part of my life, and the stimulation that comes with it. People look askance when I tell them that I sometimes wonder who learns more – the student or the teacher. [caption id="attachment_745" align="alignright" width="300"] Proposed cushion covers with log Cabin and Houndstooth central panel detail[/caption] In order to explain this comment, let me explain something about myself. I like order and organisation and I like to be in control – which is not always possible in a teaching situation. In fact the biggest learning curve I have had to face is “Learning to tap dance”. Other people refer to it as “becoming Montessori”, or just plain old “Learning to be flexible”. For me, this has not been a particularly easy road, but in retrospect it is a skill well learned. People who attend these workshops are not booking into the local High School and do not want to be treated as such, and many of them come to a class with a fixed idea in their minds of what they would like to achieve. [caption id="attachment_746" align="alignleft" width="300"] Hard at work, discovering the intracies of Double Weave on the Rigid Heddle[/caption] My first approach to teaching Rigid Heddle Weaving was to design a sampler showcasing a variety of colour and weave and textural techniques that could be completed in the space of a day – by a complete beginner. Very disciplined and structured, and in fact I still believe in this concept, but find that the majority of people attending a one day workshop want to go home with more than just a sampler – they want to make something that they can use. Even more challenging is when someone comes a to a workshop with a definite idea of what they think they should be able to make in the space of a day! Then, after teaching for some time,  I started picking up the problem of people who had done the beginners stuff and wanted to do something more advanced. Oh and the ladies who didn’t want to do anything in wool (or cotton) but preferred to work in cotton (or wool). In other words, my pre-conceived idea of how to teach a  weaving workshop was fast disappearing out of the window. Gradually over the last couple of years my tap dancing skills have begun to improve – well I think so anyway. I advertise the classes as I plan them, and then do pretty much what is required by the students. I’ve learnt that it is entirely possible to teach double heddle weaving alongside a beginners colour and weave sampler. I learnt that people doing  two one day workshops sometimes like to take the second day to weave sufficient length to complete a scarf instead of doing the second sampler, and I’ve learnt that free form weaving can happily happen alongside the more conventional. Most importantly though, I have learnt  that it is important to give people what they want so that they enjoy the experience and go home feeling satisfied with what they have accomplished. Secondly, the more there is going on in the classroom, the more it stimulates the imaginations and intellects of the people taking the class. [caption id="attachment_747" align="alignleft" width="195"] Free form with the focus on texture. Blue and white – always clean and fresh[/caption] [caption id="attachment_750" align="alignright" width="300"] Endless possibility on the versatile Rigid Heddle loom.[/caption] I left Clarens having taught workshops which covered, colour and weave, double weave, finger manipulated lace, free form weaving (using the Vari Dent reed), weft faced weaving and even a tiny little bit of very basic tapestry. The variety keeps me on my toes and sometimes I have to dig deep to keep up with the requests of my students. I try and give them as much technical background as I can to go with their explorations and to guide them towards producing textiles of integrety.  When I put my feet up at the end of the day, I  generally feel deeply satisfied (absolutely shattered sometimes, but still satisfied) and I like to think that the students go home with lots of food for thought and a mind abuzz with ideas for many projects yet to come. By the end of the week my mind too, was abuzz with ideas.  For example, I’m thinking that it will be nice to teach some weft faced weaving for a change – perhaps a set of four mug rugs, each showcasing a different aspect of weft faced. Or what about a one ball  wonder scarf using a multicoloured yarn and featuring a few basic pick up techniques…… Maybe Houndstooth is a bit old fashioned these days? What about a thick and thin Log Cabin place mat? [caption id="attachment_748" align="alignright" width="300"] Free form with focus firmly on colour.[/caption] ………And I had a whole long drive all the way back to Hodespruit to think about it and start planning the next one! [caption id="attachment_749" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Maluti Sunrise – looking forward to next year.[/caption]]]>