Another Bag, Another Story

My family has a code phrase for things that are a big deal: If you don’t fully understand why but you hear the helpful phrase, “It’s a $7 ham,” you know it’s something to celebrate. This week, two new looping treasures have come into my life. One is a gift that adds another another layer to the tale of two bags I wrote about last time. The other, an out-of-print book, is a $7 ham (cue the confetti).

Akha bag gifted to me by Tressa Sularz.

This nettle fiber Akha bag arrived in the mail this week, an unexpected and cherished gift from my friend Tressa Sularz.

Donna and Tressa Sularz at NBO 2015.

Tressa and I keep in touch on Facebook, and had a short but lovely visit during the NBO conference in July. But I think the last time something traveled between us via mail it was either gourd shards or wood scraps from my husband’s shop. So when I opened the box she sent, I was not expecting anything like an Akha bag.

Tressa wrote that the bag was given to her about 25 years ago by her friend Morgan Clifford. Now, Tressa is giving some of her treasures to people she thinks will find them inspiring.

Akha bag from the collection of the Spurlock Museum.

I fell in love with a similar bag in the collection of the Spurlock Museum. When I taught there in 2013, that was one of the pieces they put on display for my class. It delighted me way more than a $7 ham — but I didn’t get to touch it.

Starting braid foundation for Akha bag.

The bag I got from Tressa, I get to touch, turn inside out, and really study. Look at the braided cord that I assume was stretched between two sticks when the maker started the base.

Akha bag base detail.

On the inside, you can see where a bit of the nettle fiber (presumably) cordage ended.

Nettle fiber cordage in Akha bag.

The rim and strap details will keep me entertained for a good long while.

Akha bag strap detail.

I put the bag on my shoulder, feeling a bit like Elizabeth Wayland Barber with her string skirt in Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years. My height of 5′ may be a bit tall compared to the Hill Tribes people who make these bags. I’m curious about how the bag would have been worn and what it would have carried. I suspect it was not worn over the shoulder at the hip.

But before I could Google that, my email inbox pinged with a message from a handweaver from Illinois looking for someone who would appreciate a gem from the personal textile library she’s downsizing.

Odd Nordland's out of print book.

We came to an agreement and I will soon have my very own copy of Odd Nordland’s long out-of-print looping reference, Primitive Scandinavian Textiles In Knotless Netting.  It wasn’t quite the bargain a $7 ham is, but worth every penny. Guess what Bill is giving me for Christmas?

It was deeply satisfying to move that title off my Pinterest “Out Of Print Books” wish list. And who knows? Maybe I’m one step closer to someday finding the 2-volume From A Line by Toshiko Horiuchi. Although I suspect that one will be a lot more expensive. It might even require a new family code phrase. How does this sound: “Mind if I hock the car?”

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Donna Kallner

fiber artist, teacher and explorer, inspired by ancient fiber techniques and all the ways contemporary fiber artists give old ideas a new spin

2 thoughts on “Another Bag, Another Story”

  1. THIS IS SOOO COOL! You really have the best friends! And, by the way, when did you actually attain sixty inches in height?! Last I knew, you were still a fraction short (but let’s face it — good things come in small packages, right?)!

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