Plugging In For A Winter Recharge

When winter days are dark and short, I really appreciate the things that help recharge my creative energy. Things like planning a summer workshop (Sievers class registration opens today). Or going to a winter retreat — that’s what I did in January. After teaching at the Northwest Basket Weavers winter event, I came home charged up with ideas I can’t wait to explore.

I’ll save pictures of looped bags people brought to show me for my next post and focus this time on classes and retreat events.

I taught five different workshops in five days at the Seabeck Conference center in Washington. The last was a short class on Fuegian coiling, with an energizing (if too brief) discussion on nomadic material culture traditions. When I got home, one student sent me basket pictures she took in Tierra del Fuego. Thanks, Jeannie — I’m saving those for another post, too!

As so often happens in workshops, I get great ideas from things students might misidentify as mistakes. I try to snap pictures of those variations to explore later. Those shots turned out blurry, so I’m sharing a beautiful example of a student’s Burundi looping project. But I can’t wait to play with a base embellishment and a strap idea inspired by students at Seabeck.

Every class was filled with students who embrace challenges. Freeform looping is one of my favorite things to teach because it so beautifully combines technique with design. The goal is to address design on a conscious level while learning so it can then slip to a barely-conscious level while doing. Visitors to that class all remarked on what a quiet group it was. Maybe, but there was so much great, controlled energy going into their work. I could happily sit and stitch with that group for hours on end!

Not so quiet but very focused was the class that learned diamond mesh netting in the round. I tell these classes that netting was the hardest thing I ever taught myself from a book. In many ways, it’s still best taught in the old way — one-on-one with a child standing next to an elder, observing and picking up a dropped shuttle from time to time. Not do-able in a conference setting, so we adapt. I did think to whip out my phone and capture what is now one of my all-time favorite class photos:

Look at that! Middle of the afternoon and I caught everyone with their feet on the floor and their posture upright without being reminded! 

Tension is so much easier to control in netting when you use your core — not to mention how much better the lighting is when you’re not hunched over your work.

Things moved fast — too fast to remember to take pictures much of the time when I was teaching. And outside classes I should have taken more pictures — to help me remember names of new friends, for one thing. And possibly for the purposes of future extortion! Suffice it to say I enjoyed every conversation over meals, the member show, the marketplace, the demos put on by participants, visiting in the commons of my housing unit and by the coffee machine in the lodge, the stories shared after my lecture, and every moment spent with the committee member who hosted me (except for that sad Packers loss we watched on tape after we got back to her house). 

I do try to post pictures on Instagram, where I’m donnastitches, when I travel. So I’ll leave you with just one shot of Seabeck, and you can see others there.
Stay tuned for those looped bags…

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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