6: Touch, move, merge; the sacred dance and beginning

“And it all begins with a single thread, as Plato tells us, wound on the spindle of the revolving cosmos held in the lap of a woman, spinning the destiny of the world into being”

– from ‘The book of symbols: reflections on archetypal images’

Being a textile artist is like being the closest touch on skin, space between earth-textile-foot, energy between palm and cloth.

Life happens there, within the in between, within the stillness that so many run from.

Being a textile artist is about bringing change- feeding our collective consciousness with comfort and the freedom to feel again.

Textiles bring us closer to touch.

In times of environmental catastrophe, political unrest and a lost sense of what it means to be alive, resurrecting the respect for natural things: roots-shoots-fleece-flax is exceeding the realms of critical.

It is my calling to be a part of this reawakening.

Week 6 of my weaving apprenticeship with Imogen Di Sapia has fallen in changing times. The extinction rebellion movement is in motion, past threads are loosening.

Imogen and I have been working hard on a project for the RHS garden exhibition taking place in Malvern this spring. The exhibition is centred around Georgia O’Keeffe’s ‘Ghost Ranch’ and it’s been a privilege to be a part of fibre transforming to cloth. I can’t wait to see the textiles in context, amongst the other energy, crafts, colours, plants, shades and history.

***

Toes touch

Blood red

Cloth rug

Desert gold

Ancient and old.

O’Keeffe’s spirt beneath our feet

Energy once ours now back

within

reach.

I grab at the rug beneath my feet.

~

Touch- move- merge

The sacred dance

Trance

Forever locked

Never trapped.

~

These desert winds penetrate my entire organism

and I hollow out

as the sand scrapes all that I am, out out out

and away.

The winds fuel me feed me fill me wake me shake me make me.

Make me.

Take me

Home.

***

Our task today was to capture the finished cloth, the finished rug, in a way that expresses its fullness, conveys its composure and wholeness as a being, personality as well as a textile.

Imogen’s skills in creating theatre coupled with her natural story telling abilities were beautiful to witness first hand. My wool working journey has officially begun. I have now completed every stage in the making of cloth, and so the first thread on my life long warp has been set, beaten and stilled.

I now think back to the first ‘loom’ I made (if you could call it that), walking into Imogen’s exhibition for the first time and of course my time in the Yew woods last summer along side all that rests in between.

I welcome with open heart, mind, soul and spirit the many many many colourful,

neutral,

dark,

light

and beautiful threads to come.

And I urge us all to respect, cherish and treasure the textiles around us as they mimic the ground we walk on, our Mother Earth and the cosmic matter we are all made up of.

Let’s ignite the freedom to feel again.

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5: Closer to the source; the Lamb and tying the bone threads

“Like a tide it comes in, wave after wave of foliage and fruit, the nurtured and the wild out of the light to this shore. In its extravagance we shape the strenuous outline of enough” – Wendell Berry, from ‘The Peace of Wild Things’

After a wild weekend witnessing new life coming and going into this realm, and with the new Willow moon on its way, my heart is pounding with the glory and excitement that spring has scattered over us. I was blessed to witness a glimpse into the lambing season with its ebbs and flows of amazement and loss. Here are some words:

*********

A ewe is tender, hollowing out bit by bit

Her children arrive, so new and fresh to the world that their eyes stay shut, they rest under their innocent veils as they struggle to bring breath into being

He dies covered in fluid and matter, small black body absorbing sunlight under the new spring breeze, grass his only cushioning, I hope it is enough to hold his tender bones.

I think of what tethers us to life and realise that the gold silk thread cannot hold us all.

The second lamb lays to rest, the third falls and then falls. But he will eventually stand, strengthen and call

Shivering, under the strain of being alive, mother cries and buckles under the weight of her loss

‘We are all walking on this circle of life’ and that must always involve death

But also, always, new life

************

Above: Jeff the survivor

Getting closer to the source was powerful. It was moving, profound and all of the magical adjectives one can muster. But it was also simple, right and enough. It wasn’t extravagant and it certainly wasn’t all fun and games…

Arriving back at the Bright Moon studio yesterday after such a gentle weekend fuelled me with desire to create. My understanding of the fibres we work with had grown in depth.

The day was interwoven with a multitude of layers- from plying on the new ‘mega Bobbin’ to commencing the designs for a new project to finally laying down the foundations for a new and exciting piece- we were busy busy busy!

Above: an action shot from the plying process on the new wheel ‘Baba Yaga’ or ‘mega bobbin’!

Something I really want to note is how the gentle, delicate act of warping up the loom (you can see the start of this process in the photo below) became like a moving meditation. My mind, heart and gut were all totally engrossed in my physical actions. My hands had to move in synchronicity- assigned to their individual roles within each stage of threading the heddles- yet in union, yoked together by necessity as well as longing. Admittedly I had a cold and so my engagement wasn’t as amerced as It normally would be- but the loom demands nothing, it takes nothing from you, it just wants a guider to lead it’s bone thread, which is the most natural thing of all.

4: Synchronicity; serpent rising

This week the world of wool and weaving penetrated further into my being – all facets of it.

I find our English tongue pretty restrictive when it comes to discussing raw emotion- the kind that sparks a fire within our inner hearths. However- free speech can help to find a new untamed rhythm to word and sentence. When we deconstruct our communication we open up new pathways for expression, cultivating a new kind of creativity.

As I become more accustomed to the foundations of wool work, this free speech has appeared and I share it with you here, as part 4 of my life long venture. I hope it stirs something within you…

Rising

Like a snake,

Coiling,

I seem to be shedding

A skin.

Fluid, like

Water

She rises.

Wool

Weft

Warp

Thread

Blend

Spread

Blanket touches my skin,

Green blue serpent

Waiting

Rising

Freeing mind

Body

Movement

Oracle, weavers

How closely it resides.

I feel her, living in my body

The more I root down

She will rise.

3. Water and Weight

Sometimes the best way to connect, is to Imbody

‘How absurd to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly ocean’ – Aritha Franklin

How precious it was to start to understand the relationship between water- our vital life source- and the ancient processes Imogen is teaching me. The moment my hands were submerged, a-grip with fibre, I knew that all my years diving into any water any where was going to have a dramatic influence on this stage in Wool work.

After preparing 5 sample skeins to develop and experiment with, and starting to come to grips with the drop spindle, my next step was to wet my fibres and then weight them. Their fetus like shape, coupled with the luke warm water bought out a somewhat maternal instinct within me, affecting how I handled them, cradled them and then watched them grow as they were weighted down with the earths clay.

Gravity and lengthening

After this brief encounter with a vital stage within the weaving process, we moved on to playing with plying. Play is a key word here- Imogen’s personal technique, one developed through her own intuition and remarkable understanding of the materials she works with, gives one space to let the wool fly free, enhancing the weavers place as a watcher and guide. The physical act of two people applying tension coupled with a moment caught in air where the two halves of thread meet like old friends was one of the lightest, freest acts I have ever witnessed.

My plyed yarn

I spent the afternoon blending 4kg of wool. The fibres I was working with had the foundation of the studios ‘House Blend’ which was an important recipe for me to learn. I became very familiar with the blending process, and it felt so special to be a part of the foundations for another of Imogen’s creations.

2. Blending and Spinning: The place of breath, tension and heart

A moment of motion 13/3/19

‘Take to spinning to find peace of mind. The music of the wheel will be as balm to our soul. I believe that the yarn we spin can mend the broken warp and weft of our life.’ – Mahatma Gandhi

When Imogen read me this quote from Gandhi the reference to ‘our soul’ resonated so strongly I felt the vibrations of the plural penetrate somewhere deep, deep down. But that was after. After the combing, carding, blending, spinning. After the grasping of energy and tension and gravity, after unveiling the ancient relationship between my hands, my ancestors touch, and the fibres they held.

With the timeless songs of Hildegard (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ei88J4lERbk) connecting my ears to the etherial landscape of the collective consciousness, I could melt into the physicality of casting wool through metal, combing out the dirt, revelling in the energy and union between my hands and heart.

Sun, Moon, Earth, Ocean, Air. Their presence so prominent in the fibres I tried to manipulate with my own feeble strength. At times, as I began to spin, I felt the cracks of frustration begin to show. They never developed further. In their place a new sensation, an alien one, rose to the surface.

I have always engaged with the elements, but unravelling the foundations of wool work has fully illuminated the pure, wild, untamed, untameable, intense unifying union of energy these elements share. It is noteworthy that at first I tried to conquer the wool, tried to manipulate it, control it, tame it. It is also noteworthy that I thought this was possible.

As an apprentice I have the role of learner, and my day in the studio yesterday highlighted that this learning process is hugely centered around building a strong relationship to the materials and elements I am working with. This relationship transcends into all realms; the physical, the spiritual, the emotional. Waking up this morning to the wind roaring with muster and humour, and unable to cycle to the garden I work in as a result, the immensity of our existence engulfed me. To try to encapsulate this, Hildegard’s melodies where once again ignited, and I took to my spindle as the sun rose.

Next week we will focus on water and gravity- what a union that is, how eternally grateful I am.

My first four skeins, the tension is rising

1: How Weaving came to me

One of my most poignant memories as a child was a feeling that lingered deep inside of my being. This feeling was one that contained the aura of interconnectedness- such an earthy emotion that, when given the freedom, children express and explore constantly. Art and creative expression, using skills and systems learn’t from my father and friends around me, have been a means to continue my inquest into the innate awareness that links everything to everything.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be encouraged to use my hands to communicate what I see, think, feel, experience and wonder. School and college were periods of time where I could translate my moments into porcelain, fibres, ink, paint, movement and fragments of time.

Driven by the sun, moon, ocean, energy and skies I began to look ‘beneath’ in every sense of the word. On a personal level I wondered what lyes beneath our words, identities and beings as a whole. Whilst on a physical level, I was fascinated by the decay and microorganisms that create our flourishing eco system. This lead me to Permaculture, and developed an eternal respect for Mother Earth and the land and ancient energies we are made up of. Lichens, fungi, roots, shoots and fallen leaves- they had to be where I looked to find the beginnings and the endings of everything.

During my Art Foundation I leapt from clay to illustration to performance art to textiles in a constant stream of changeability. Until, one day I found the ancient craft, rooted in history, emotion, struggle, glory and beauty- Weaving came to me. I was blessed to find an exhibition named ‘The Selkie: weaving and the wild feminine’ by Imogen Di Sapia. Masked with ambiguity yet familiarity I walked in to a world filled with a pure profound innocence and beauty. All around me were textiles of the most organic, captivating nature. In awe, I knew that I had found a thread on my path. 

Driven to the woods, and away from the stagnant indoors,  fuelled with inspiration and drive from Imogen’s Exhibition, I began to weave. The Ancient Yews engulfed me into their warm embrace. In alignment with the Lunar cycles and the Pagan Wheel of the year I would weave for hours and hours in a free, unwinding format, unaware of the traditional skills behind the practise. 

Less than a year on I have had the pleasure to become a weaving Apprentice at the Bright Moon Weaving Studio in Brighton with Imogen Di Sapia. It continues to make me smile as I remember walking into her Exhibiton, The Selkie’, for the first time and realising that she was going to be the one to shed light upon this ancient craft.  

This blog will be a means to document my journey as an apprentice. Threads of experiences from the other facets in my life, such as my yoga training and permaculture work will naturally weave into my words. I aim to use this medium as a means to reflect on the many many techniques and skills I will learn. Words have always been a way for me to sort and organise my vast flow of thoughts; I love to speak them aloud, listening to the vowels and consonants melt on my tongue like warm butter. 

Finally, I hope to spread an awareness of the importance of the sustainability of ancient craft, as well as creativity in general as a powerful outlet for expression and exploration, one that helps to tie the threads of the mind together.