Monday, February 28, 2011

Continuous Learning

" You can teach an old dog new tricks" or at least that is what my weaving buddy declared at our last study group meeting.

Funny how we all reluctantly dragged ourselves off to school as youngsters but embraced learning when we became adults and had a choice of what to do with our free time. Just as our brains are starting to deteriorate we are motivated to cram more into them.
I remember when my children learned to read and, having grasped the concept of reading, how they couldn't get enough books. I think that joy of mastering something new never goes away. It is why we take classes, attend workshops or join a study group.

The Qualicum Weavers and Spinners are fortunate to have an active workshop committee and a number of talented members who are willing to share their expertise. Through both of these groups, we have been able to enjoy both formal multi-day workshops with noted artisans and focused mini-workshops given by expert members. The learning has ranged from making cedar baskets to woven wearables and even included some history lessons on the tartans

There is nothing quite like emersing yourself in a major workshop when your every waking hour and much of your sleeping time is taken up by your craft. At the very least, rubbing shoulders with a master craftsperson transfers some of their energy and love of craft. This experience can have a major impact on your work. Often, however, the immediate response is one of euphoria followed by exhaustion. There are so many new ideas to explore that it is difficult to focus on just one. Still, I find that new concepts creep into my thinking and eventually push me to try different approaches.

Opportunities for studying with a major artisan tend to be limited either by cost or location. That doesn't have to limit continuous learning. Within every guild there is a body of expertise to be shared. Never under estimate your ability to pass on something new to a fellow artisan. You may not be a master artisan but there are things that you have mastered that are worth sharing.

It may be a skill acquired from another activity, something you learned in a class or a lucky discovery from just mucking around on your own. I always come away from a member's workshop with at least one idea that gets implemented immediately.

Study groups are a terrific invention. They allow people with a common interest to learn by sharing knowledge and experience. It is a wonderful way for those newer to the craft to share the joy and the pain of discovery. How reassuring it is to learn that just about everyone has experienced then overcome the same problems.
The study group format also works for those who want to expand their knowledge. The key is to have a common interest and the commitment to follow through. Our "block design" group is learning how to create original weaving designs using profile drafting tools. The learning involves a combination of research and weaving. We meet on a regular basis to share examples and experiences. There is nothing like a meeting schedule to motivate one to get the assignment done. Each of us has a different view point on the subject so we cover more ground as a group than we could as individuals.
If your local group doesn't have a study group consider joining an "on-line" group or better still create your own. If you build it they will come.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Great Stash Reduction Challenge Part Two

Take a good look at your stash. If any of the previous descriptions apply, then you need to admit that you have a problem. What to do about it? Well, you can join in The Great Stash Reduction Challenge.

The objective of the Challenge is to reduce the amount of material in your stash. You could put it in an unmarked green garbage bag and donate it to a local thrift shop. No one will know where it came from. Please don't do that! It just tempts the yarn addicted (like me) to buy more stuff. The Challenge is a better way to reduce your stash and achieve a sense of accomplishment.

First I need to explain the rules. Yes, there are rules. Without some structure you are not going to get past thinking about all the different projects that you could do. So, we are going to narrow the choices a bit and see if that helps you to focus. We need a deadline too or you may start but never finish the project.


The purpose is to use up your existing inventory of yarns and fibres by creating a finished piece of fibre art.

  • The item must be finished during 2011. The item could have been started earlier. This is for those of you with unfinished items who need incentive to get on with it.

  • If you are a member of the Qualicum Weavers & Spinners Guild you must have the item completed by our June meeting so aim for the first week of June. If you are not a member then set your own deadline. BUT SET A DEADLINE!!

  • The piece can be any fibre art item using any technique but it must be a finished piece. Simply spinning fibre into yarn doesn't count as this is equivalent to moving items from one category to another within your stash. The goal here is move items OUT of your stash.

  • The piece must feature an item that has been in your stash for 5 or more years. It's the older items that need attention.

  • The piece can have newly purchased ingredients but the majority of the ingredients should be from your existing stash. Consider items obtained before January 1, 2011 as existing stash.

If you are a member of the Qualicum Weavers and Spinners you may enter your piece in the Challenge in one of the following three categories. Who knows you may win a prize. At the vary least you will clear some space in your cupboard.

Longest time sitting on the shelf category for the piece that contains the oldest (in terms of your storage system) material. You'll need to back up your claim with a story.

Volume discount category for the piece that uses up the largest amount (by weight) of material. A bathroom scale is suitable for obtaining the weight.

Most imaginative means of using up stash items in a creative endeavour category. Any fibre art item and any technique.

Take some time to visit with your stash, especially those items that are buried deep inside drawers, storages boxes and those green garbage bags. Bring along your favourite beverage as this will take a while. Spread the items around the floor. Group them together as you see them combining to form a work of art. Feel those creative urges stirring and get on with it. Check this blog at the end of June to see how the Qualicum Weavers & Spinners made out.